Fiona Mears graduated with a first degree (in French and English Studies) back in 2012 and came back to Stirling to complete an MSc in Translation with TESOL in 2013-14. In between, she has had postings as an English Language Assistant through the British Council’s scheme and, since Autumn 2015, she has been working as a lectrice at the Université Franche-Comté. Before starting that job, though, last Summer, Fiona found herself working at an English Language Summer School in Edinburgh…
“I was delighted when, nearing the end of my second stint as an English Language Assistant in a French high school, I was offered the role of Activity Manager at an English Language Summer School in Edinburgh. What I didn’t fully grasp at the time was just how intense summer school could be, especially for managers. You have no choice but to hit the ground running!
The madness began almost straight away with the arrival of our first group of students and it didn’t really stop! It soon became clear that there are many duties concealed behind the title ‘Activity Manager’; not only did I manage and organise activities and excursions, I took part in them.
As the only member of staff who knew the city, I spent two Saturdays in Stirling, where I relished the experience of climbing the Wallace Monument’s 246 stairs twice in the space of half an hour after all three group leaders on the trip threw a hissy fit and refused to go up. On the upside, I was rewarded with a rare few hours off later that afternoon.
I also went to places that I had never got round to visiting: Linlithgow Palace, Falkland Palace, Holyrood Palace (good job I enjoy looking round palaces), the Royal Botanic Gardens, Dynamic Earth… As you might imagine, going to such places isn’t a wholly relaxing experience with fifty or so teenagers in tow, but any opportunity to escape the campus was one that I was going to take.
As well, I took part in on-campus activities (playing Ultimate Frisbee was a personal highlight), I carried out placement testing, taught, tour guided, shepherded students into lines in the dining hall and patrolled corridors at night. It all sounds very glamourous, I know. I greeted new arrivals and waved off departures. And on top of this, I did what I had daftly perceived would be my job, that is, making sign-up sheets, confirming bookings, doing staff observations, preparing itineraries, typing risk assessments, setting out materials needed for activities and excursions and generally ensuring everything on the activities side of things ran smoothly.
All in all, summer school was one of the most stressful, demanding and downright exhausting experiences of my life so far. Yet it was by no means a negative one. It taught me a lot. It gave me my first taste of management, which I discovered I’m not too bad at. It put my organisational and prioritisation skills to the test. I learnt to predict potential hiccups and to have a plan B (and C and D) for everything, and I learnt to think on my feet when problems inevitably cropped up. Having to phone to make and confirm reservations forced me to get over my dislike of talking to strangers over the phone. It put me out of my comfort zone, in a good way. Staying focused and not losing it after a close to 100-hour working week is no easy task – but I did it. I’m just glad that summer school happens in 4-week blocks!”
Updates on Fiona’s new job as a lectrice in France will (hopefully…) follow soon!