International House (IH) is 60 years old. It was started in Cordoba in 1953, by John and Brita Haycraft, and has since grown to encompass 156 schools in 52 countries at the time of writing. John Haycraft’s biography, Adventures of a Language Traveller, which I’ve just finished reading, is a fascinating insight into where the whole organisation came from and how it grew in its first few decades.
I’m in my sixth year with IH. I spent three years in Brno, Czech Republic, 2 in Newcastle, UK, and am now in Sevastopol, Ukraine. I also did three summer schools in the UK for the same school, although it changed from IH to Kaplan while I worked for them. During my time with the organisation I have been given a huge amount of opportunities, which I don’t believe would have been available to me in quite the same way anywhere else:
- Support with learning to teach young learners and teens, right from day one of my first summer school, the week after I graduated from university;
- Post-CELTA training seminars throughout my first year at IH Brno, building on everything we’d covered during the initial CELTA course;
- The chance to do IH certificates in teaching Business English and Young Learners, as well as the Certificate in Advanced Methodology, through IH Brno;
- Access to online teacher training via the IH Online Teacher Training Institute, in the form of the IH Certificate in Online Tutoring, as well as a short course on dogme;
- Financial and moral support to do my Delta, through IH Newcastle.
Presentations and conferences
- The opportunity to attend, and later to present at, local conferences in Brno and nearby cities, giving me the conference bug;
- The time to attend conferences in France and in the UK (thanks IH Newcastle!);
- Regular online conferences and webinars, which I’ve also been able to present at. As I write this, the 60th anniversary conference is taking place;
- The International House John Haycraft Classroom Exploration scholarship, which gave me the chance to attend IATEFL for the first time – although it didn’t have to go to someone connected to IH, the support of the organisation for potential IATEFL attendees is hugely important.
Building my career
- Shaun Wilden inspected IH Brno as part of maintaining IH standards, and during a throwaway comment, mentioned the community of teachers on Twitter – a sentence which changed my life!
- Progressing within the same organisation has helped me go from teacher to Director of Studies (my current position) at the pace I wanted, via other responsibilities on the way;
- Being given the opportunity to write a column for the IH Journal.
And the rest…
- Feeling part of a huge, but incredibly friendly and supportive organisation;
- The chance to move to different countries through the IH transfer system;
- The focus on training and development which has shaped who I am as a teacher;
- The high quality of teaching expected from all of us, pushing us to be better and to help our students to the best of our abilities;
- The affiliation system which means that every school is unique and local, while at the same time meeting the strict IH standards which give you confidence as a teacher, and recourse to complain if you ever need to (which thankfully I haven’t!);
- Being able to meet people from around the world, both fellow teachers, and particularly my students in Newcastle;
- The chance to move to a completely new country, and feel welcomed there no matter what happens;
- The influence of IH on the ELT world in general, from the creation of the CELTA, to the number of past and present IH teachers who have gone on to write coursebooks and materials, run schools, and do all kinds of amazing things. (Side note: When Brita Haycraft was presented with the 2013 Lifetime Achievement award at the British Council’s ELTons awards, Liz Soars asked members of the audience to put their hands up if they’d never had any dealings with IH – from an audience of about 400, nobody’s hand appeared!)
It’s been an amazing experience for me so far, and I’m very proud to be part of such a great organisation. I hope it’s a relationship which continues for many years yet 🙂
(Banners shamelessly stolen from the IH World facebook page)