The ABC of ELT

The 5 worst things about teaching in a summer school

If you’re a regular reader then you’ll probably be aware that I’ve just finished (or perhaps survived is a better word) a six week stint in a summer school in the UK. It was truly a great time (despite the title and reference to surviving) and tomorrow I’ll post my 10 best things about teaching in a summer school but it’s always good to get the bad out of the way first (this is actually very similar to an activity I do with students if I see they’ve had a bad day (double the number of good things to bad things in a length of time though it’s usually only 1 bad 2 good in the last week)

1. You’re Surrounded!

Nearly 24/7 you have kids around you! When you’re teaching, when your eating a meal, when you’re in town during the day, even when you’re in your room and you can hear them running around outside your window. There really is very little escape except the few evenings off a week that you have. All of the teaching team tried to make the most of every evening off and go out, spend some money and come back feeling quite tired only to find that the kids are still awake!

Shakespears Birthplace
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2. Trips out can be Chaotic!

Excursions can be a great chance to see some amazing sites and visit some wonderful places. I especially enjoyed warwick castle (where I had never been before) and exploring Startford upon avon. However, the many of the kids seam to constantly be fixed on the chance to go shopping (even the ones who come for 6 weeks and have shopped in ever shop in London (or so it seams). What’s worse, taking kids down the road and trying to ensure they stick to one side of the road and let the locals pass on the other side is like herding cats (though I think using the phrase “herding summer school students” should replace herding cats to show how hard it is to send something in one direction.) Not to mention the various Group leaders who varry from being extremely helpful to saboteurs of the pre-agreed plan.

3. Teaching out of your comfort zone

As I confessed in an earlier post I faced some of the toughest students I’ve ever had to teach at summer school. Some of these issues were to do with behavioural issues with students and classroom management. However, the greater problem came in that there were students from so many different countries and with such different learner profiles that balancing all their needs was a real challenge. It was certainly different from the Monolingual classroom problems in Ukraine.

4. Your teaching team is only as good as your weakest teacher

Teaching as part of a team can be a great experience where you gain from every teachers experience or it can be a real struggle to know what each person is doing. If you have one member in a team who:

  • Isn’t around,
  • Doesn’t plan anything,
  • Doesn’t tell you what they did in their lessons

and generally doesn’t tell you anything, then it can be a real challenge to work in a team. What’s more, when you have a structure like “grammar lesson, Skills lesson then speaking lesson.” which should all compliment each other and one teacher is doing whatever they like in every lesson it doesn’t help either.

5. Bunking off.

Although the vast majority of teachers and staff do their jobs and go the extra mile (many even spend their precious time off helping out when really they shouldn’t) There are some who seam to find short cut after short cut. Sometimes this is excused via “I’m a teacher I shouldn’t have to [insert task x]” which suggests they perhaps didn’t read their contracts which include such duties and tasks. On other occasions it simple because the task isn’t appealing or “doesn’t need to be done” (which really means they don’t see the point in it). Of course, if one teacher bunks off then it affects all the others and usually it is one of the extremely hard working staff (who could really use a break) that covers for someone else.


So there we go! that’s my list of Worst things about teaching in a summer school.

Have I missed anything? Have you had similar experiences. Why not vent them in the comment section bellow?

p.s. Tomorrow I’ll post my top 10 things about teaching at summer school so come back and check it out then…or subscribe so you don’t miss it.

About Chris Wilson

I'm an English Language teacher based in Krakow, Poland. I enjoy writing, using technology and playing the Ukulele.

4 Replies

  1. Vicki Hollett

    You’ve brought back memories Chris. Happy ones overall, but gosh you’re right summer school is a challenge!

    1. I’m glad it brought back good memories for you Vicki. I can’t wait to follow up with the good things about summer school! 🙂

  2. No matter how bad they are I always look back on them as good memories later (after 11 years of Summer Schools!) I have had the chance to visit places that I would not normally do – and then want to visit them without a herd of students to keep an eye on. I have met some interesting teachers and students from other parts of the world.

    1. I’m glad that you think of the good experiences and not the bad. I’m sue I will too.

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