Are You Ready For Summer School?

Shannon, an experienced summer school teacher, shares her best tips for preparing for this teaching position. She also breaks down different types of summer schools, making it easier for you to know what to expect.

Tips for summer school teachers

Are you Ready for Summer School?

The two words “summer school” can conjure up all kinds of images and emotions for both students and teachers. When I was a kid, I only heard of summer school as a threat of punishment, mostly on TV shows. “If you don’t get better grades, then you’ll have to go to summer school.”

Today summer school comes in many different forms and addresses various student needs. If you are considering taking on some extra teaching duties this summer, do your homework before you commit. Find out what kind of program you will be implementing and the desired outcomes. Talk to colleagues who have taught summer school to see if it sounds like something you’d enjoy.

Types of Summer School Programs

Summer school programs generally feel much less structured than the regular school year. Summer sessions are shorter, lasting fewer days and usually fewer hours per day. Expect a much smaller student-to-teacher ratio. You won’t have as much time to get to know your students, but you will likely get more one-on-one time with each of them. Depending on the program, each student may be working on different assignments, also.

Completion versus “Retake” Programs

Many secondary summer programs are now designed for students to complete assignments for a class that they failed rather than retake the entire course. Often, the goal of their summer program is to finish the assignments that they didn’t turn in, or on which they received a failing grade. Regardless of the type of program, your daily encouragement and support are essential for your students. Remember that these students often have had negative experiences in school, may have low self-esteem, or may be dealing with health issues. Your positive attitude and consistent encouragement can go a long way with them. Show your students that you believe in them and celebrate as they accomplish each goal.

Remedial Programs

Some students may enroll in a summer program to practice or improve their skills in certain areas. I enrolled one of my children in such a program the summer after seventh grade. He needed a confidence boost in both language arts and math. At first, I was worried that he would see the summer program as punishment, but he actually enjoyed it. He was one of just a few students and received ample attention from the teacher. As a struggling student, he had often remained quiet in class, afraid to ask questions. With one-on-one attention, he could ask anything he wanted without fearing the reactions of classmates. After the first week, he told me how he liked the program and that it gave him “something to do” over the long summer break.

Enrichment Programs

Many summer school programs are geared toward students with specific interests or talents such as music, science, or technology. If you are teaching in one of these programs, avoid the mistake of being overconfident that your students all want to be there. Some may have a great desire to attend, but others may only be there as a result of a parental decision. You are still on the hook to keep the program engaging for your students.

Learn Expectations

A few years ago, I was hired to teach the second half of a summer school session. I missed the staff orientation because I was traveling with my family at the time. The principal kindly excused me and told me not to worry about it; they would get me up to speed when I arrived. Huge mistake! I was briefed on the basics the morning of my first day, but I had missed many important details regarding daily routines and procedures. I made at least one mistake per hour on that first day. A voice from the office kept interrupting me over the loudspeaker to tell me what I needed to do next time. Those errors caused me to lose credibility with many of my students.

Learn the Curriculum Expectations

The program you are teaching may be highly structured, or you may have tons of flexibility. The summer program that I taught was a beginning Spanish class for secondary students who had had little or no previous exposure to Spanish. I was handed a blank slate to teach anything I wanted. It was the perfect opportunity to bring in some music, art projects, and games to expose the students to basic Spanish vocabulary and introduce some culture. I also rewarded them with a sampling of foods and beverages.

Learn About Your Students

If you have access to academic records, take some time to learn a bit about your students. You can also start the first day with a survey to learn about your students’ interests and goals. Remember that you won’t have as many days to build relationships with your students.

Expect the Unexpected

Don’t expect summer school to feel like the regular school year. Your students have engaged in a full academic year of learning, and they are ready for a change. Your challenge is to keep them engaged. It needs to be different from a regular school day. For students of all ages, think about how you can use hands-on activities and games to teach the curriculum. If possible, take your students outside for physical activity or a break. Be sure to communicate your ideas with your supervisor since she/he may have specific expectations. Take Care of Yourself Hopefully, your entire summer isn't consumed with teaching and taking continuing education credits. Make sure that you are getting enough time to refresh and replenish yourself over the summer break.

Have you taught summer school? Share with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Shannon Krzyzewski is a veteran educator with over twenty-five years of experience teaching Spanish, English/Language Arts, and Social Studies at both the middle and high school levels in the Seattle area. She is now a freelance writer, editor, and educational consultant residing in Montana’s Flathead Valley.
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