Dear members, colleagues, and friends,

most teachers are now on holiday taking a well-earned rest and recharging their batteries. Teachers work long hours in a difficult profession and need quality relaxation in order to return to their classrooms with renewed energy and verve. Of course, many teachers work through the summer at summer camps and summer schools around the world and they often have a difficult and challenging job dealing with children from 6 to 17 who have been sent by their parents, sometimes unwillingly; children who are themselves in need of a break in their often stressful lives.

So we have a group of people who are all in need of a break but they can’t put their feet up because for diverse reasons they need to keep focussed and on the ball for the duration; how do they manage to do that?

Summer schools are extraordinary places, old friends meet again, new friends are made and teachers who otherwise work in isolated contexts suddenly find themselves in the midst of like-minded colleagues and are able to exchange ideas and create new ones. The best summer schools have built-in support mechanisms and processes with generative observation of teachers by seniors who are able to offer support and advice, peer observation where teachers can watch each other with guidance and helpful encouragement.

This then, is a kind of recharging, a top-up for the professional (and sometimes personal) batteries. Teachers may go from working alone in a classroom on the other side of the world, with no input, no recognisable CPD into a rather frantic atmosphere of professional demand, perhaps teaching an age group they don’t normally teach and first language speakers who are mixed rather than homogenous. Thus, no translation is possible, teachers have no knowledge of students and their backgrounds, their strengths and weaknesses, there may be a tenuous placement testing process which means often that differentiation is an absolute requirement of the summer school classroom.

But a good summer school can reawaken dormant skills, reminding teachers of ways of working they haven’t used since their Cert, Dip or last year’s summer school! One may be required to use books and other resources not normally present in the schools from which teachers have come and so, they have the additional challenge of rapidly familiarising themselves with new materials.

In addition to all of this they may be required to run activities for their charges meaning they need to balance their time very carefully in order to manage the considerable demands being placed on them. Taking children on a trip or to play football while still thinking about the next lesson and planning it mentally requires special skills of multi-tasking!

Summer schools are tough and teachers need to be motivated, energised and committed but the rewards are manifold for those brave enough to get involved. There’s more than one way to recharge, there’s more than one way to relax and more than one way to spend a summer!

If you’ve never taught a summer school, perhaps next year you might consider it as a way to revitalise your teaching, your professional tool kit and your circle of colleagues around the world.

Happy teaching and learning.

July 2018
Steve Hirschhorn
Chair of Gallery Teachers Membership Committee.