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.
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.