This is part 4/6 of a series on Surviving Summer School. To read the other parts check here.
Summer school is a full time job – and then some. Make no mistake, no matter how well-prepared you think you are, how much teaching experience you have, or how much energy you think you have to spare, by the end of the first week you will be exhausted. Don’t despair, don’t panic, and above all else please don’t think about quitting. You can survive 6-8 weeks of this, and there are some ways to make it far easier.
Know what you’re letting yourself in for.
Most summer schools have a disclaimer in their contracts where it states that on some occasions you will be required to work for more than 40 hours a week. This is there for a reason. It’s also not as terrifying as it initially sounds. Here’s why. It isn’t all ‘work’ as you know it. Some of those hours will be when you are having the time of your life dancing at a disco (trust me, it’s amazing – it’s like going clubbing but without the pressure to pull, and the lack of alcohol means no hangover the next day). Some of those hours will be on the glorious sunny afternoon when you are lounging by the swimming pool, or playing volleyball in blazing sunshine with a group of Spanish teenagers. Some of those hours will likely be supervising students at meal times, or during their free time, or during the ‘lights out’ period. It’s all ‘work’, but not all work is equal, and it isn’t all equally tiring – in fact a lot of it’s pretty fun!
Saying that, it is wise to make sure you’re as well-rested as possible before you head to summer school. If at all possible, don’t start work there immediately after finishing a contract elsewhere. If that’s unavoidable, know that you are going to get tired. Cut yourself some slack.
Look after yourself.
Tiredness, working hard, a change in diet, lots of students coming from all different countries… it only means one thing: getting sick. It sounds like typical ‘Mum advice’, but regardless of what you do the rest of the year, summer school is the time to make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating as much fruit and vegetables as possible, drinking enough water, and ideally taking multivitamins. Taking precautions won’t necessarily prevent you from getting sick, but it will mean that if you do, it will likely be less severe and you’ll recover more quickly. It can be difficult to get good fruit and veg (UK boarding school food is notoriously dire) so this is where either stocking up on your own supply or bringing multivitamins with you comes in. It can also be tempting to stay up late socialising with your new colleagues/hopefully friends – don’t do this every night. I speak from experience!
Don’t work all the time.
This advice also comes from personal experience. The first couple of years I did summer school, I was at something of a loss as to what to do with myself when I did get time off. I’m an extrovert by nature, and spending my day off by myself in a city I didn’t know didn’t appeal in the slightest – so I did what seemed natural: hung out with my colleagues. Who, obviously, were working. Meaning that I ended up working too. When you’re nineteen or twenty (as I was) you can deal with being constantly ‘on’. It’s not ideal, but it’s doable. However as an elderly lady of twenty-seven, I now find that I need my time off. I’d advice anyone valuing their sanity to do the same.
If you have a hobby you can easily indulge in while at summer school, make sure you pack whatever you need for it. Take some good books or a laptop with films or TV shows you love on it. If at all possible, leave the site on your days off. It might seem easier just to stay put, but you will feel far more refreshed and relaxed if you physically leave for a few hours and go somewhere else. This is also where befriending your colleagues comes in! It can be harder as an activity leader (they generally have their days off during the week and, at least at smaller schools, take separate days off) but as a teacher you will tend to have a weekend day off – along with other teachers. See if you can go somewhere or do something with them – and if they’d rather just stay in their room and relax show them this post!
It is only X weeks.
At the end of the day, no matter how exhausted you feel, remember that summer school is invariably only for a limited number of weeks. This is not your life from now on (although it might feel like it) and things that would not be sustainable in the longterm are perfectly ok if you’re only doing it for a short period of time. Expect to sleep well for the first few days after you finish your contract!
And a final word… talk to someone.
If at any point you’re feeling tired to the point that you can’t cope, talk to someone. Your senior teacher/ADOS/course leader is there to help you – and as it won’t be their first summer school, they’ve definitely been in your position. Maybe you can swap a shift with someone so you can go to bed a little earlier, or supervise a slightly gentler activity. Maybe another teacher or your senior teacher can help you a little with planning or photocopying so that you get a bit more free time. Don’t make yourself suffer in silence.