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Making the Most of Teaching Summer School

Wednesday, June 11, 2014 -- Scott Sterling

Summer school has a particular stigma that makes it a source of dread for everyone involved—student and instructor both. And although the length of summer school continues to decrease with budgetary pressures (some states only mandate 60 clock hours per course; slightly less than two weeks depending on the length of school day), it has been proven a valuable resource.

Still, everyone in the room would rather be at the beach. Here are some ways to squeeze the most out of those two weeks.

Accentuate the positive

That summer school stigma desensitizes many teachers who opt for summer duty. They automatically think the worst of the students who find themselves participating. The truth is that if these students weren’t invested in their education, they wouldn’t be there in the first place. Kids that don’t want to succeed wouldn’t take the time.

If you don’t typically work with the students in your summer school class, now is the time to broaden your horizons. Get to know them. Find out what makes them tick. That effort will make the summer a much more valuable experience for both them and you.

Focus on preparation for next year

With struggling students (who make up the majority of the “clients” for summer school), content often has to be framed in order to get them to buy in, meaning that they often need to know what’s in it for them (other than the recovered credit, obviously).

Place an emphasis on how this information will help them in next year’s classes. Talk to the students about summer brain drain and how they will be more prepared to hit the ground running come August. Framing the time spent as beneficial in the long run might get them to try a little harder.

Focus on your preparation for next year

These might not be your kids. You might not even teach the courses being offered during summer school. That doesn’t mean you can’t use this brief time to expand your teaching practice for next year.

Summer school classes often feature smaller class sizes, making differentiation and individualized instruction strategies that aren’t possible during the school year accessible. With more practice, maybe they can be used during the school year. Do some experimenting with blended learning as well, since many summer school programs now have significant online components.

Have fun!

Yes, no one wants to be there. Yes, you only have two weeks in which to fit a lot of material. That doesn’t mean that the room can’t be fun or that you forget the engagement strategies you use during the traditional school year.

Make some jokes (and laugh at theirs). Take the time to celebrate successes and accomplishments. It’s possible that you are the first teacher that bothers to be positive with them—perhaps even turning the tide in their educational careers.