Summer course: lots of kids, lots of classes and tonnes of coffee. 8 weeks of full teaching days with only 1 day off. You think it’s impossible… nah just a bit hard and funny and glorious and crazy. Your school will be filled with lots more kids from 10am and even more teaching assistants. It will be loud and busy and you’ll find out which course you love by the end of week 2. You’ll laugh and cry and everything in between and if your like me you’ll teach then go be social and continue your hobbies then go to bed and wake up in a blink of an eye. There are not enough hours in the world for all this you’ll think, and guaranteed you’ll be re-thinking your contract renewal and cursing your DOS. Yes, summer, a time of raised temperatures, constant storms and long nights, then there’s the weather to look forward to.
But (to paraphrase Gloria Gaynor) you will survive. So here are some tips from those on the front line:
1. Take breaks!
Sit down lots to avoid over doing it. You may be young but you might still get tired standing all day. Conserve your energy and sit down where you can. Doing an IWB activity? Perfect opportunity to sit on the chair and take the weight off your feet. If you’ve done all your planning set yourself up in an empty room with your laptop or a book and escape for a while or even go to a coffee shop and chill on your phone.
2. Don’t be over energetic at the beginning
Pace yourself, you have 8 weeks to get through. The last thing you need is to burn your self out by the weekend.
3. Stay super positive in and out of class
You may have the busiest schedule, or the air con may not be working but find a silver lining. That kid you like might be in your class, or Subway may have just opened up in your mall. There is always something to be smiling for and it will make your classes go quicker.
4. Have fun with classes
You’re teaching for 1hr30 per class then your regular classes on top. You might get bored with the same warmer or that same flashcard game so mix it up. On the first class try something new. Athena offers lots of new IWB activities for the courses and new handouts too. Make your own handouts or use Pinterest to get ideas for class projects. You can basically do anything (within reason) so have fun with it.
5. Don’t put pressure on yourself
I’ve done it, sound adventure, this 1 kid doesn’t remember anything I tell him. I’ll mime “b b b” and mouth it. Another kid is shouting the answer but this kid is staring, mouth open, eyes expressionless. Am I a bad teacher? Why is he not understanding what I’m teaching 2 seconds after I teach it? It’s NOT you, you’re NOT a bad teacher. It’s just the kid might be completely new to all this. He may not get it in week 4 either, but 2 years down the line, he’ll remember that teacher constantly miming “b b b” and know what it is because of it. After all, do you remember every Chinese word you’ve been told?
6. “shut up and crack on”
Sometimes things are out of your control and the summer schedule is one of them. You may have a horrible 12 hour day ahead of you but you won’t be the only one. If you complain about it then it may last longer and you’ll never be able to find a silver lining. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have a nice rant about things but try keeping it to the minimum. If you pick yourself up and keep going then you’ll feel better for overcoming the tough summer and feel you’ve earned a break.
It’s important for your students and for you too. The days are longer than normal and sometime you might be taken a back by this. By creating a routine you’ll familiarise your body with what needs to be done. It will make it a lot easier for ou too because you’ll know, at 10am I have my first class, 11.30 I can chill then have lunch. 12.30/1- 2 I can plan lessons. 2 my next class… and so on. Routines like this will save you from rushing around or last minute planning and fear keeping you up at night. You’ll feel better for it and you might even end up with spare time to catch up on tv.
This summer I tried to stick to all of these, sometimes I did and other times they went out the window. I still have 1 month left. But I’ve made it this far so with this advice from colleagues i’m sure to be ok. Just remember that you’re not the only one who’s tired and working hard. You’re also not the only one who’s doing these courses. Ask other teachers, old and new, what they’re doing or have done for the course and how they’ve coped with summer courses in the past. Don’t suffer in silence, make sure you are comfortable with the courses you’re teaching. It’s a tough time that’s for sure but when you get to that last class and you’re kids are reciting stories like a natural you’ll be smiling like a Cheshire cat.
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