TEFL changed my life
I became an English Language consultant in 2018, 17 years after I taught my first English class. I did what many people did, I lived the dream, well my dream anyway, I just never stopped!
Back in 2001, after having finished university and not really knowing what to do what the rest of forever, I took a plane to Naples, with my best friend. He was there to keep me company for a week and then he was coming back home. That was the plan, and that was always the plan.
That was a moment… and even now when tough times arise, I think back to me standing there in Naples airport. Completely alone for the first time in my life. Waving off my best friend in the world, knowing my family were in Scotland wishing I was too. How did I do that? Well, I don’t really know. But I did and so started my relationship with the English language.
As a novice teacher I made all the usual mistakes, I spoke too fast, I didn’t know my own grammar well enough and I thought I was too young to teach. I had no experience to tell me anything different. Most of my courses were in businesses, so my students were generally in their forties or fifties, which was daunting to me in my twenties. I couldn’t speak Italian so I had to evoke the primary TEFL rule – only English in the classroom! And everywhere else as it turned out!
I slowly started to learn my second language, through everyday situations. I went to the supermarket and learned what a “busta” was, as a plastic bag was waggled in my direction. “Il resto” was not thrust into my hand as would happen in the UK but left on the counter for me to embarrassingly slowly pick up, coin by tiny coin. I learned through experience, I learned how to pay bills in Italy, to have a bank account, to start friendships, to have waiter service in a pub. Everything was different, but then again so were the words I was using to function in this Brave New World. I started to think in Italian and I started to um and ah in Italian, as we do in our first language. It wasn’t an uphill stroll, improving day by day. Every day in the sunshine was an extra verb learned – far from it. My colleagues and friends spoke Italian, many had been there for a while or they had studies the language at uni or something similar, I was starting from zero (well, I had ciao and pizza pretty well embedded!). There were days, many days, I just thought nope. I can’t do this. It’s beyond me. I just can’t.
Often, I would look at my English teacher colleagues and I would be kinda awestruck. We were all there, living a fairly normal life, we all had jobs, a house, paid our bills and we were all functioning in 2 languages. I too moved into that group. My language picked up momentum and I started to converse fluently, I wasn’t daunted by a new situation and oh how proud I was when my family and friends visited from Scotland! Even today I sometimes still dream in Italian. An Italian friend told me once (best compliment ever!) “you trip over the words the Italians don’t even know”. That guy was one of my good friends over there (not because he said that!!) he couldn’t speak even one word of English.
Teaching English as a Foreign Language changed my life. There are no doubts about it. I progressed through my career in Naples teaching in private and state schools, businesses, at the University of Naples, I taught everywhere. I loved it. Then, when I was offered the opportunity to manage a school in the centre of Naples, with my own wee team, I jumped at the chance. It created a new need in me. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I needed to have my own school and that was where I was going. The big boss management of my Naples school were all in Milan and popped down once every few months to check in, so I basically ran the school the way I wanted to and I loved it. I learned about customer service, about loyalty to and from staff. Having been a teacher for years I knew about the difficulties inside the classroom, but this new adventure taught me about the journey a student goes through to get into the classroom.
Scotland was calling. I delayed coming home as I didn’t know how I would cope and what I would do. Many of us do that, many of those guys that inspire awe.
But home I went, to face the biggest challenge yet. I was lucky enough to land a role that saw me managing an EFL summer school. I had to move an hour from home (that’s fine, still the same land mass after all), and there I started to learn about a whole other world, with TEFL at its heart.
Together with my staff, many of whom are still with me today, we grew our summer school until the host school couldn’t cope. Until the dining hall had to be staggered and the theatre had to be rota’d. Until I annoyed people with the summer school’s success! I managed a team of six + teachers, all the activity and residential staff and I loved it. I had 22 nationalities one year, not even the biggest year, I was really proud of it and I poured everything into it. My self and my soul and you know, it was never even like work.
My experience in and out of the classroom gave me the understanding of how each student came to our school and ultimately what they wanted out of the time they spent with us. I was the happy host of happy children, with a few mum’s tears in the background. I went to an industry conference and one agent told another agent that my language school was “the best there is”.
And what of my Italian? It’s part of who I am now and eight years after having left Italy full-time, I gave a presentation to a school. In Italian. I am not telling you I didn’t make mistakes, I am not telling you I wasn’t anxious beforehand, I did and I was. But I did it and they clapped and understood.
I learned Italian through Natural Acquisition. The natural use of the language, with a focus on communication and the rhythm of the language. Fundamentally it’s how babies learn their first language, listen, recognise, repeat, practise, repeat. Our summer school, through all of this experience and understanding is based on the same principle. That is how we remember, that is how it becomes ingrained.
At BLISS, we too are students, we are language learners, we have been away from our families in the quest for adventure and learning, we have had to make new friends, we sometimes felt like everything was new and incomprehensible. We have the empathy and understanding through this personal experience to create a safe, nurturing and supportive learning environment, because that’s what we do. That’s how we learn.
And what of me now? I left my bursting-at-the-seams school and well, I told you that I became a language consultant, I did. I did that for a moment and I still do, I am also a teacher trainer. I love to do that, setting off new teachers onto their own journey. That’s a privilege. I also got my qualifications to be the Academic Manager of our own school. I write the syllabus, I train the teachers and I observe the classes. Why wouldn’t I? It is part of my fabric now, it’s who I am, it is what I do. It is also how we gained British Council Accreditation.
And deep down, it is what makes me me, having my own school, just like back in Naples. But now, it is in Scotland. It is flourishing and it is growing. The flowerpot that is our school is bigger than before, so we have room to grow.
Every day I speak with people who have legitimate concerns about sending children abroad to learn, and every day we register another student or group on our system.
Teaching English as a Foreign Language changed my life away back in 2001 and continues to enrich me day by day. That’s the reason I have dedicated my career to language teaching and that is why I will continue. And you know what? Italian made me walk the walk, and ultimately talk the talk.
And it’s not even like work.
Suzanne Brown, BLISS Director
This summer we have really pushed the boat out, literally. We have seen how much our students loved being outdoors and trying things they hadn't done before, so we decided to make these experiences a full afternoon option.
Outdoor Adventure sees BLISS team up with a local activity centre, who welcome hundreds of Scottish boys and girls every year to their centre. These guys are the experts in everything adventurous and outdoorsy!
We will be running this programme all the way through summer and you will have 4 days offsite and one day onsite, with this option. Coordinated by our very own Jorge, who is working with the activity centre, we will see our students learn to Paddle board, Kayak, go Aqua -Zorbing, try out archery too to name a few things! All of this with the dramatic Perthshire scenery as a backdrop.
This is an excellent way for students to learn outdoor skills, as well as team building and practical skills too. All, of course, in English.
There is ample opportunity to mix with local students too, as we will all be learning together. On our one day onsite, we will be taking full advantage of our outdoor classroom that we have at Glenalmond College. And we are absolutely sure we will relax into long summery evenings, by the camp fire, toasting marshmallows.
This option is available in all weeks from 28th June to 2nd August 2020
My name is Hannah and I am so looking forward to working at BLISS this summer! I am a secondary school History teacher, so I work with children all year round, which I love! I love teaching children new skills and giving them new experiences – so an international summer school is the perfect job for me! I am most looking forward to the discos, games and showing children the fabulous sights that Scotland has to offer!
This is my fourth summer working on Suzanne’s team and my second year at Brownlee as Lead Residential - I cant wait to meet this year’s students and seeing students from previous summers!! If you have any questions, please just find me and ask!
My name is Rachael and I am really excited to be joining BLISS this year! I am really looking forward to meeting a new group of children and showing them around the gorgeous Glenalmond College campus. I am a secondary school French and Spanish student teacher, as well as an English teacher, so I love working with young people and watching them learn a new language!
I have been teaching English for 5 years now, and this will be my 3rd summer working with Suzanne. My favourite thing about camp is seeing all the friendships that are made, I can’t wait to meet everyone and maybe sing my heart out at the disco. See you in June!
Vote for us
The ST Star Awards, now in their 15th year, celebrate outstanding education provision and service within the study travel industry.
Winners will be revealed at an exciting awards ceremony, held on 5 September 2020 during ST Alphe UK and we would love to win a shiny award of ST Star NEW SCHOOL
BLISS was only an idea in 2108, a reality in 2019 and hitting milestones in 2020! We would love to win in the category of ST Star New School, as we have industry experience, British Council Accreditation and we are building on our reputation day by day and fundamentally, we are helping international students make memories in summer in Scotland.
Voting is very easy:
Thank you so much for taking the time to register your support for us.
Thank you for choosing our school!
Why bother to learn English?
Why Learn English?
There are many points that we could discuss about the benefits of learning a second language: mental expansion and stimulation; job opportunities; ease of travel - the list goes on.
But if you really want to know why you should learn English, visit Denmark!
I used to be a little annoyed when, as a native English speaker, I couldn’t go anywhere without someone answering my brash attempt at (insert language here) with a reply in much better English than I was attempting in (language).
Then I went to Denmark. Everything was very – well, Danish! A huge sense of identity and pride in their heritage, culture and language. And then there was English. Gone are the days when, half embarrassed / half relieved, you had to ask if the person standing in front of you spoke English, just so that you could ask for a pastry. (Oh my, you should ask for a pastry!)
In Denmark, everyone, I mean everyone, speaks English. It is used as a means of communication with us tourists, with visitors and those who also speak English as their second language. No one seems to bat an eyelid that everyone there is bilingual – at least. It is taken for granted. From the elderly fellow at the market stall selling me Glogg, to the youngsters in the street, and the staff in the shops. No one shrugged their shoulders when we defaulted to English.
I have been lucky enough to travel a bit and I have many fond memories of my miscommunications in Italy, Brazil and with that lady in the supermarket in Japan - I’ll tell you about that one day. Not to mention the pharmacy conversation I had in Moscow, no idea what about, but it went pretty well…
After about three hours in Copenhagen, I stopped asking the question. “Of course!” was the reply I got every time. From a linguistic point of view, I was gobsmacked. Danish people speak amazingly well in English. There – I’ve said it. But it got me to thinking about why their English is so good? Reading up on it, I see that Danish and English are similar. Great – why don’t I speak Danish then? So, it can’t be that simple. Danish students start school at 6 or 7, so they start early? Wait, I started school at 5, others start at 4, so it can’t be that. So, what is it? Reading further, it seems that English as a Foreign Language is a strong subject, like maths or science. “Compulsory” was a word I read many times. Having been an EFL teacher abroad, I was really dismayed to see, back in the noughties, that children at high school were given text books to study, about the works of our wonderful Mr Shakespeare, which is fantastic, but doesn’t help you understand a visitor to your country. Unless they come from the 16th or 17th century, of course.
I feel that the Danes got it right and I am sure many other countries have too. They have focussed on communication skills, less gap fills and more situational use of English. This is what we do in BLISS. I have seen many students come to us from all over and go home excelling and outperforming in English back home, because that is what we do when students are with us. Gone are the texts from the 17th century, arrived are storyboards, debates, presentation skills, CV writing and how to use the internet from the very start, all in English. And that is just in the classroom. Whether on the sports fields or at the disco, you have to request your song in English. The tuck shop helps you understand money in the UK and how to ask for things you need, in this super safe environment. BLISS students spend all their time speaking in English to us, each other and to the people they meet during their time with us. The effect of that is outstanding. It is the way I learned my second language and it is called Natural Acquisition. It works and it is the foundation of everything we do over summer school.
I was struck by the English of the Danes. The national average is probably perfect. From a native point of view, it made my stay there easy, comfortable and accessible. Thank you, Denmark and your bilingualism. It’s awe-inspiring.
Let's hear from the staff - Daniel
Hi, my name is Daniel Hoyos Flight. I'm a dedicated English teacher and Managing Director of The English School, in Alicante, Spain. After almost 10 years of teaching experience in schools and summer camps in Spain and U.K., I'm delighted to have the opportunity of teaching at the summer camp 2020 at Glenalmond College Language School.
Last year I taught at the BLISS summer camp and found it to be a fantastic experience. Providing students with a great programme of learning and leisure activities gave me the great satisfaction of seeing how the students benefitted from having full-immersion in English and how they became so much more motivated to communicate in English in this fun environment.
As I am half Spanish and half Scottish.I have a cultural mix of which I am proud of and I enjoy introducing cultural customs and traditions as part of the learning process. I grew up between Spain and Scotland, and in fact have family roots in the beautiful city of Perth.
I graduated as an English teacher at the University in Madrid and gained the TESOL certificate in Barcelona. Apart from teaching, I have also worked as an Analyst in Business Consultancy. I have travelled around New Zealand, Brazil, Thailand and Europe and have acquired life experiences that complement my teaching skills. However, one of the trips that really impressed me was this year, when I visited the Highlands of Scotland and the capital city of Edinburgh! The spectacular scenery of the north and the history entailed in Edinburgh Castle, and the city itself (known as Athens of the north) is absolutely amazing. I was thrilled to see that one of the excursions at the summer camp is to St.Andrews, which is one of my favourite places. Apart, from having a world famous university, and the Royal Ancient Golf Club, the Himalaya putting Green and the West Sands beach are awesome.
I am currently involved in teaching and preparing children, teenagers and adults for Cambridge University English Exams. I really enjoy teaching as it allows me to combine my different skills and it is always challenging. Throughout my work teaching I have always believed in connecting with students in motivation, setting goals and combining work and fun.
Today, Universities and future employers are demanding a higher level of English, and encouraging students to be motivated and challenged is essential for their future success. This summer will provide the perfect ingredients to learn lots and have fun in the wonderful surroundings of the Scottish countryside. I look forward to meeting you all!
Glenalmond College could tempt you with our onsite golf course, 300 acres of perfect grounds, incredibly well maintained by staff. We could tempt you by the thought of spending your evenings outdoors, toasting marshmallows over a camp fire in our forest, or making pizza in our pizza ovens. There is a lot there to tempt you. But, you might prefer horse riding, aqua-zorbing, kayaking or just simply drawing a picture in a room filled with music, and that is just fine as there is plenty of time for that too.
Each student, as we have discussed, comes as an individual and so had their own tastes, likes and wants. Each student should choose the school that is right for them.
So, who should choose Glenalmond College Language School?
Students who know that they have many choices and can decide what they want to do, but they know that they and their future friends they will make at summer camp, will do something. There is no room for passivity, there is little time for staying in rooms. There is a lot of time to discover the school, make new friends and thunder through the grounds on a treasure hunt, created by Daniel, one of our teachers.
Our students, certainly the ones who return to us year after year, they know that we are a community. We all work to the same schedule and we all eat together, play together and learn together. We are the balance between summer and school. The corridors are filled with laughter, sometimes too loud and sometimes just a faint giggle, but it is the overarching heartbeat of our summer school.
Parents who wonder if this school would fit their children should consider; do they want to get involved? Are they happy to live as a team? Do they want to make new friends and memories to last a lifetime? *
The students who have been with us for summer in previous years, come to us usually shyly… after one or sometimes two days they have made new friends and are into everything; house drama, arts and crafts, excursions, lessons, baking, discos and the beloved tuck shop, to name a few elements.
Our summer school is unique, just like each student. It’s a feeling the student has when they arrive. The same feeling we had as kids. The excitement, the unknown, the joy! We know that feeling and we nurture it.
Glenalmond College is the school of choice, and of choices. Choose us and your students will make those memories, guaranteed.
*all memories will be made in English!!
We first met her parents, now firm family friends, in a hotel bar, in Moscow, in 2014, as set up by a consultancy in Russia. They were early; my hair was wet. I explained everything out to them and they asked a lot of questions through their translator - every little detail. I answered everything in the fullest way I could. They spoke about their daughter and I could see that the two Russian parents sitting in front of me wanted me to give the answers fully and freely; above all, they wanted their daughter to have the skill of speaking English. I remember my boss at the time being there and none of the questions being addressed to him. I remember that I was in the spotlight, centre stage. I remember the bar was quite dark. The translator was angled towards me and she asked for many details on our English Language lessons. I spoke about the curriculum and my teaching experience; I spoke about our teachers, how we recruit them and the vetting that is in place. The translator dutifully carried questions and answers between me and the couple in front of me for over an hour. They asked about accommodation and premises, about the structure of the school and the heating systems. They wanted to know about the other students; for example, where are they from? They asked me everything they could think of. I responded and added my own questions, which I also answered, freely and fully.
I found out there and then, that one of the best ways to talk about your school is not from the point of view of selling or anything similar, but authentically. I spoke with gusto, as I still do today, about the passion and enthusiasm with which the school staff deliver on the promises I make. I see them fulfil these promises, as I am there on campus to witness it - every summer, every year.
Was this good thing? Yes, because after that meeting in that hotel bar, in Moscow, in 2014, the little girl who was, and still is, so precious to her parents came to our summer language school. She arrived with her grandma; her mum and her dad would pick her up. She arrived and, oh my, she was so little – I remember bending down to hear her little words.
That little girl, with her long hair that I tried to tie up for her, taught me many things. She taught me that each student is an individual. Each parent has trusted you with their own individual child, even if they are in an organised group. She taught me that a smile goes a long way when you can’t articulate what you want. She taught me that everything is worth fighting for. She taught me that little people can be so brave.
She taught me how to say goodnight in Russian.
Her little Russian lesson from a few years ago has stood me in very good stead. She has been at every summer school of mine since I met her parents and she will be with us again for 2020. She’s not so little now, and there’s nothing she can’t articulate in English. I am so proud of her and her parents are too. I know because they tell me.
And the next time I will speak my limited Russian? At my own wedding in 2020, to those parents whom I met in a hotel bar, in Moscow, in 2014, and their precious not-so-little little girl. A teenager now. A girl who speaks English now; fast, fluently and effortlessly. A family who have become my friends. A family who know my family. A family that I met in a hotel bar, in Moscow, in 2014.
To my friends in Russia, thank you for trusting me. Thank you for choosing me.
British Council Accreditation
In the summer of 2019 Glenalmond Language School teamed up with BLISS to form the British Council accredited partnership, fully named as, Glenalmond College Language School in Partnership with BLISS. This partnership formed before the summer school of 2019 started, as Suzanne Littlejohn (MD of BLISS) became the Academic Manager of Glenalmond. BLISS provided the syllabus, the teacher training, the materials and academic management and support for Glenalmond, which is from where this accredited partnership came.
You might wonder what all the fuss it about? Why is it so important for a school to have British Council accreditation? Why do we shout out about it? And just why are we so proud of it?
There are many reasons for this. It is a gold standard accreditation for sure, it is a marque of quality and of tradition, to a certain extent, but fundamentally is is the outcome of months of hard work, then a month (or so) of intense work, then the knowledge that your students can rest assured that they will receive the very best 360 experience when they come to your school.
A school can only achieve accreditation if it meets or exceeds certain stringent standards. And not only for the period that we operate, but all year round. Let's take a look at what elements are inspected by the British Council in order to award us this coveted marque.
The inspection itself is conducted over two days on site, when the summer school is running. The sections that are inspected are; Management, Premises and resources, Teaching and learning, Welfare and student services and Safeguarding for the under 18s.
An excerpt from the report states:
Premises and resources
The provision meets the section standard and exceeds it in some respects. Glenalmond College provides an exceptional setting with plenty of room for staff and students to study and relax in. Resources are sufficient to meet the needs of staff and students on a summer school. Premises and facilities is an area of strength.
Another excerpt states:
Welfare and student services
The provision meets the section standard and exceeds it in some respects. Students are very well cared for, are provided with relevant information and advice and live in high standard residential accommodation. They enjoy a varied and interesting leisure programme. Accommodation and Leisure opportunities are areas of strength.
In the section that covers Teaching and learning, BLISS shone brightly, categorised as a "strength" and urging the comment of "The academic manager is TEFLQ with a great deal of summer school management experience, as well as wide- ranging TEFL experience in a variety of contexts." This alongside every element of the Academic Management being met, made BLISS (consultancy) very proud.
"The content of the lessons shows that the course objectives, the learning needs and cultural backgrounds of the students have been taken into account" proved to the academic team at BLISS that their content creation was perfect for the learning environment hat they were trying to achieve.
The full report can be read here should you wish to, but suffice to say that we are very proud of the work that we did with Glenalmond College and we have gained this result through a lot of hard work.
As well as allowing us to give visa support to those who need it, along with being recognised as gold standard, we are content knowing that we do it right, we are content knowing that our students get the very best and we are content knowing we will improve year on year and we will give our 100% to ensure every student who comes to us receives a summer of fun, memories* and will make strengthened leaps in their English.
We have students who come to us every year, every summer they spend with us, learning, laughing and growing. Their parents, trust us, as they know us and those who don't know us, can trust the marque of the British Council that we so proudly display.
Be a part of it for 2020. Email now on firstname.lastname@example.org to apply for your place Glenalmond College Language School in Partnership with BLISS.
*all memories will be made in English!
We are English language experts. We think about English and the teaching of English, we implement that in our school. The BLISSful blog is an insight into English language summer schools and why we are different.