It's not uncommon for teachers to be wary of summer school teaching jobs. Many think they require giving up the entire summer without taking a break. Others believe that summer school students can be challenging because they don't really want to be there. And some even think reviewing the same material they taught during the regular school year could be boring.
But lots of teachers are happy to teach during the summer. In fact, many summer school teachers return year after year because they think it's rewarding work that benefits them professionally. If you're on the fence about whether teaching summer school is something you'd like to pursue, here's a look at what it's really like.
Who Goes to Summer School?
Kids go to summer school for a lot of different reasons but most attendees are high school or middle school students who weren't successful in a course they took during the regular school year. Usually, they need it for graduation or in order to take the next course in a sequence. While it's true that some kids would rather be somewhere else, the same could be said in a regular class! In fact, summer school teachers often say their students are more attentive and committed to doing the work than during the school year because they want to take advantage of this second chance.
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Besides the students who are repeating a course, there are those who actively choose to take a course over the summer to open up their fall schedule. They may sign up for driver's education or a higher-level math course, for example. At the elementary level, some districts offer summer school for kids who aren't making adequate progress. These are often half-day programs that focus on essential reading and language arts skills. Kids in these programs have a real opportunity to catch up, or simply avoid losing any ground, over the summer, and I know from experience that they love the individual attention they get in summer school.
How Is Teaching Summer School Different?
Summer school tends to be more casual in dress, but not in content. Most summer schools last 6 to 8 weeks, so you need to plan carefully and not waste any time. Students may have to pass a local or state test at the end of the summer session, and you want to be sure they're adequately prepared, especially if they need the course for graduation.
Teachers need to focus on key concepts and skills in this shortened time period. Some states provide a specific curriculum for summer school and others allow the teacher to decide what students need. Typically, classes last between two and three hours, so teachers find they have to vary activities to keep kids engaged and interested. At the elementary level, teachers usually have quite a bit more leeway in designing classes than their secondary counterparts, but many give kids a pre- and post-test to measure progress over the summer.
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What Can Teachers Learn from Summer School?
Summer school is an extra chance to home in on and expand your teaching skills. To help kids understand material they didn't comprehend the first time, you often have to present the material in new or different ways. You can experiment with breaking information down into easily digestible pieces or try different ways of rewarding student participation with praise, stickers, or even bite-size candy bars.
Many teachers also find that summer school is a real opportunity to connect with kids, especially if classes are smaller. Taking a personal interest in each student's progress can help them become more successful students in general. You may even discover that some former summer school students are in your regular fall classes, which means you'll already have a good relationship to build on!
More than anything, teaching summer school is gratifying work. I've been to many August graduations for kids who didn't walk in June because they needed one or two more credits. Summer school allowed them to finish their coursework and get their diploma, so students and their families are very grateful to the teachers who made their success possible. That's a real perk of the job. So when summer school teaching jobs are posted, give them a closer look. You just might end up enjoying the experience more than you expected!