Andrew Lifford is a former secondary school teacher, teacher trainer and education researcher. He has worked at Portland School, Google, The Key, Researchers in Schools and Teach First. The views in this post do not represent the views of Edapt.
The summer months are upon us and depending on your sensibilities as a teacher, this can either be the most enjoyable or stressful time of the year.
In both primary and secondary, a certain pressure is released after exams season, year 11s will have left, Ofsted are unlikely to visit and the summer holidays are just around the corner. Similar to the period just before Christmas there are a host of events to organise and attend, from leavers assemblies, sports days, trips out to Gulliver’s World to summer bbqs for parents.
There is a feeling of transition amongst both pupils and staff. Staff might be moving onto other jobs, changing departments, a new headteacher might be inbound or your favourite colleague is retiring. Pupils will be moving tutor groups, saying goodbye to friends and anticipating what the next year might hold. There is so much to be done with limited time and a feeling of excitement and exhaustion is in the air.
Then there are the practicalities of teaching lessons in this atmosphere. The glare of the sun rising temperatures and temperaments amongst adolescents, water fights spilling over in the corridors to the stray dog which sends a rush of children to the windows. You endeavour to continue teaching curriculum content even though your pupils exclaim they are designing posters about the latest Marvel film in other lessons.
Routine is irregular and your PPA time disappears as you drawn to teach year 8 computing from a lesson plan hastily written down. You notice attendance is ever decreasing as parents take their children out of school to go on early summer holidays or long weekends away.
You ask yourself how much learning is taking place? Actually quite a lot. Thinking back about some of my most memorable moments as a pupil and as a teacher it’s during the summer months. You feel you can take more risks in your lessons, pupils are accustomed to your teaching style and routines are slick and down to a tee. Planning in advance is key, knowing if a particularly tricky afternoon is coming up with half the class on a trip and the hottest day of the year which makes concentrating difficult. Take the opportunity for a group discussion about a topic, listen to the quieter pupils who might feel more confident that the class characters are out for the day. Sometimes it’s about taking opportunity in those small moments where the greatest of learning takes place.
The enticing allure of a summer after a long year of hard work is just deserved for teacher and pupils. It’s great to see more schools celebrating in successes with proms and graduation ceremonies for pupils. It can be stressful for parents and pupils who who can’t afford school trips, are nervous about attending the prom and have a long summer ahead without the safety net of the structured school environment. It’s the responsibility of teachers to set these expectations and support all our young people through a time of year which is full of optimism as well stress.