10 questions with Tina Desmond, Head of Boarding in Oxford
EF Academy Oxford counts on a great staff group that offers companionship, guidance, and friendship to every student on campus. Our head of boarding, Tina Desmond, is an unforgettable member that all of us care for and admire very much. Tina is one of those people that go beyond their job description, which is something that I, as a student, can greatly appreciate. Her kindness and attention to the students makes us all feel welcome and protected, despite being away from home. For all these reasons and for her diligence in her job, I find myself inspired by Tina, not only to share kindness with the world, but to go up and beyond in everything I do.
I had the pleasure of doing an interview with Tina where I learned about her experiences at EF Academy, her thoughts on her job, school dynamics, and the student body. Here are some highlights from the interview.
Why did you decide to apply for the position of Head of Boarding, and how many years have you been working at EF Academy?
I started at EF Academy 13 years ago in Torbay as a law teacher and then began teaching sociology as well. Then, in 2016, there was a position for a house parent, so I decided with my partner that we could work together as a family and move into one of the boarding houses. We loved the boarding house experience, and I was asked to be head of boarding. I was the head of boarding, teaching law, head of humanities, etc. In June of that year, I was in France and heard of a position available.
What is your favorite part of being Head of Boarding?
Looking after people. One thing that I really love doing is making things better. I consider myself a fixer, so if you have a problem, you come to me and I’ll do my best to fix it. That is what I love about my job; helping people and caring for people.
How would you describe your duties at EF Academy, besides the ones stated in your job description?
As head of boarding, I can say that the position is non-exhaustive. It goes on and on and on. I always think of it as being a mum, a sister, an aunty, a policeman, a judge, a cleaner, a nurse, etc. You’re literally so many things. Everyday will be different. One day, it could be looking after someone because they aren’t very well, or helping to sew trousers, or something else.
Have you learned a valuable life lesson while working at EF Academy?
I think I’ve learned a lot in my first year of this job. I learned that students need guidance rather than discipline. You need to guide students and be fair with them. I’ve learned that direct discipline doesn’t work with teenagers. You’ve got to earn their respect. That’s the most important thing I’ve learned. It’s about getting the best out of them, not strictly disciplining.
What is something you want to tell someone who is considering going to EF Academy?
Play hard and work hard. I do think that you need that balance. When you’re here, you need to work hard, and when you’re on break, you really need to take advantage of it. Don’t fall behind, because it’s hard to catch up.
How do you make new students feel safe and cared for in the EF Academy environment?
By always being there for them. Letting them know that we’re here if they need us and opening that line of communication. They need to understand that we’re here for them no matter what. I would rather they tell me the truth so I can look after them a lot more. Also, the rules that we have in place have a reason, and they all relate to the students safeguarding. I feel like having rules in place makes students realize that we care for them.
What has been your overall favorite experience while working at EF Academy?
This story makes me emotional! There was a girl that was failing IB, and she was very upset about it. I ended up taking her under my wing and nurturing her, took her to the doctor and helped with her academics. She started growing, and one day she texted me and said that she had passed IB and that it was all because of me! That was a “woah” moment for me. Another moment happened when I was a teacher and a student said that they wanted to be like me, which also made me very emotional and content with the impact I left on my students.
How would you rate the students from 1-10?
I don’t think I could ever rate the student body. Every year, they are amazing and different, all of them. Even the ones that misbehave. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. Students come here at a very young age and in another language, which is something that I can really appreciate and admire about everybody. Just the fact that you’re here, for me, is amazing.
Do you consider the people at EF Academy as part of an extended family?
I do. When I used to live with students in Torbay as a house parent, I definitely felt like we were a family. When I first came to EF Academy Oxford, it was a little different because I don’t live with the students, but I always think that we’re all one big family and I hope that students feel that way as well. That is definitely the feeling that we’re trying to create. Everyone cares for each other.
Last question: What is one thing that you love about the students?
I love that they’re all different. If all students were the same, it would be boring. I love the fact that students all come together as a family, even when they come from different nationalities.