A week in the life of a summer school DoS

The weekend

This may be a strange place to start but without any preparation work before Monday, the operation will not get off to a flying start.

First and foremost, you must have a day off from work. When you take it, depends on what needs to be done before Monday.

Staff inductions

You may have staff arriving. They will need to be inducted so they know exactly what they are supposed to be doing from Monday morning. This is probably best done sooner rather than later as incoming staff will need to plan and time to settle into their new environment. Does the Hall’s Manager know they are coming?

Stock check

Do you have enough of everything? E.g. paper, pens, tests, blank reports and certificates etc. You will certainly have enough for this week but if supplies are running low, this is the time to drop your head office a line to replenish stocks. As a golden rule, I try to order things two weeks before they are predicted to run out. Do it soon though, you won’t be the only DoS ordering materials and it always takes longer than you think to arrive.

Testing room

You will have students arriving all weekend which means they will need to be tested and inducted on Monday. Have you booked a room for this? Is it big enough to accommodate everyone?

Classroom check

You will have already informed the relevant people what classrooms you need for the week, but you should go and check the rooms anyway to see if there are any problems. If you have any technology in your classrooms e.g. computers and projectors etc, it’s worth turning them on to see if everything is working. This will save the stress of having to deal with any problems on Monday morning.

Being on duty

Being available for teachers to come and speak to you at some point is also important. You can be busy doing the jobs listed above but allow yourself the time to troubleshoot any problems they may have.

Update the notice board

At some point, put up a notice in clear English where new students need to go on Monday morning/afternoon for testing and induction. This message should be reiterated by the centre manager but needs to be displayed in black and white. If you want to start at 09:00, ask everyone to be ready at your meeting point from 08:40. It will take you 10 minutes to get everyone seated and ready to start.

For those students who are already in the school. Put up class lists with where they need to go and at what time. This is best done as bullet pointed questions and answers e.g 1) ‘What time do lessons start?’ ‘09:00’; 2) ‘Should I go to the meeting point first?’ ‘No, go to your classroom at 09:00’, etc.

The sooner you do all of this, the better as you don’t want a barrage of questions on Monday morning when you are already busy. Typically students and group leaders need time to read, absorb the information and if necessary find you to ask some questions.

Monday

Teachers’ meeting

You need to be up bright and early to get ready for what is arguably the busiest day of the week. Call a meeting half an hour before teachers start. It doesn’t have to be long- 10 minutes is enough- but it’s important you know everyone is here and knows what they are meant to be doing i.e. testing or teaching. Everyone should know what they are doing but it’s still worth checking as ironing out problems after the day has started is much more difficult.

Teaching

Although Monday is your big testing day, there will be some classes running. By this stage, all students should know what they are doing but don’t bank on everyone getting to where they are meant to be. Testing usually begins following a preamble so you can delegate the responsibility to those not teaching to help students who are lost and then checking and following up on absences.

Testing and induction

If you are lucky, you may be able to test all incoming students in the morning. This means you can mark and place students quickly and efficiently. Although in practice, you may have to perform another round of test in the afternoon. If students are late arriving (delayed flights, it happens!), you may be working until very late in the evening. Do you have enough staff to help you?

The student induction is an important component which may fall on you to deliver. It’s arguably as much a part of safeguarding as it’s about informing students what time their lessons start or when meal times are. Within this session we should be stressing the most salient points which will help keep everyone safe. Remember that there will be learners with a range of abilities present in the room so you should think about how you are going to convey meaning so it’s received and understood. After the induction comes the test…

As soon as testing has finished, get marking! There is no time to lose! Seriously though, you only have teachers for an allotted period of time so use them while they are available to work for you.

Once you have tested and inducted the new student intake and marked their tests, you can start creating class list.

Meeting Group Leaders

You should find the time to meet Group Leaders and speak to them. Do give them an overview of your testing procedure and when and where they can come and see you. Be honest and try your best to encourage a good working relationship, you will need to work with them at some point during their stay.

Noticeboard

At some point during the day, change the signs on the noticeboard with instructions of when and where everyone should meet for the weekly assembly tomorrow (Tuesday) morning. Having a weekly assembly is an excellent idea. It gives you an opportunity to go over the most salient points from the induction and for students to meet their teachers, who can escort them to their classroom for the first time. As a general rule, ask students to get to the meeting point 30 minutes before their classes start i.e. if you have a 09:00am start, ask them to be ready at 08:30am.

Just before you finish…

The day has been long but before you clock out, make sure you have class lists ready for the morning. You need to hit the ground running.

Tuesday

Teachers’ meeting

Start the day with a (very quick) morning briefing. You may have managed to get class lists finished early yesterday in which case teachers will already know what and where they are teaching. Having said this, you may not have had any final lists prepared until late last night. In this case, this will be the first time teachers will have seen the specific make up of their classes. If you are wondering whether it’s fair to tell a teacher at the last minute what they are going to be doing, or for that matter whether someone can feasibly plan for this, skip forward to Friday.

Remember the meeting should be as brief as possible; teachers will need time to get to their classroom and set up. If you are holding a weekly assembly, remind teachers to be ready in the assembly room 15 minutes before classes start i.e. if you have a 09:00am start, ask them to be ready at 08:45am. Remind teachers that these will be their classes for the rest of the week and that you expect all reports for student leavers by Thursday morning. More on report writing later.

Assembly

Even though you have informed students to be ready at the meeting point, it’s unlikely they will all be on time. Factor in time to round up stragglers and have them seated in the assembly room 15 minutes before classes start. If you time it right, you will be welcoming students, reminding them of meal times and possibly going over a few salient points as teachers start to arrive in the assembly room.

10 minutes before classes start, read out, or display if you have a projector, the first class group. Ask teachers to stand near the door and wave. As you read student’s names, they come forward and are led to their class by their teacher. At this stage don’t worry if there are students missing, it’s more important to get people into class without too much delay. Also, it’s probably best to start with intermediate level groups as they will be competent enough to understand the instructions i.e. ‘listen for your name’ and ‘come forward’ etc. Leave the lowest level classes until last, they will understand what to do by observing others before them.

If everything goes to plan, the only people left in the room will be you and those group leaders who decided to come along. Alas, it’s quite likely a poor soul or two will be sat looking confused in the middle of the room. Never mind, find out which class they are meant to be in and escort them there.

If group leaders are prepared to wait for a while, it might be a good idea to show them class lists and talk about student levels. Be frank, you have reached your conclusions based on evidence and/or class fit- your decisions are not arbitrary. What you should try and avoid is any quibbling over whether individual students should be in an elementary rather than a pre-intermediate class, for example. If there are genuine concerns, they will be raised after the first couple of lessons. Remember that once students have been placed in a class group, any movement should be justified, done in the student’s best interests and should always be preceded by a process of retesting. All changes should never be arbitrarily made, nor should your hand be forced under pressure.

Teaching

By now, everyone should be in class. Although it’s still important to visit every classroom and check there are no problems. Remind teachers to count the number of students on their class list and then count the heads. It’s quite common that a register is called and everyone present responds to their name, except there might be extras who have tagged along with the wrong class group. Don’t expect the class teacher to spot this or for the learner to raise their hand and say their name hasn’t been called. They may be embarrassed, or simply don’t realise that their absence from another class will rally a search party.

Once all learners have been accounted for, you really should have a cup of tea.

Staffing

If everything is running smoothly, you should have time to look at staffing for next week. Although only Tuesday, it’s important this is done now. Calculate how many students are leaving, and how many will arrive. When you have the total, divide this by the teacher – student ratio that you have. Ours is 1:15 which, if we assume that next week we will have 300 students in morning lessons, we would need exactly 20 teachers. In this case, I would be asking the recruitment department for 21 teachers to allow for some wiggle room when placing students into classes which suits their needs. In most cases, you will already have been provided with a list of teachers. In this case you just need to make sure you have enough staff and then ask your head office for permission to contact them directly. I cannot stress this enough, you MUST contact teachers yourself. DON’T leave this to someone else to do. Call them and if they don’t answer email them immediately. Be persistent, you must be sure they are coming. If you have not had any contact by the following morning, you should be putting pressure on the recruitment department to help you contact them.

All-day teaching centres

If you work in an all-day teaching centre, i.e. you have classes in the morning and the afternoon, the process we have looked from this morning repeats in the afternoon.

Being available

After the day’s teaching has finished, teachers will naturally meander back to the teachers’ room. Do be available as you may be needed to answer questions or troubleshoot problems.

‘Clinic’

After dinner, you should open your doors to Group Leaders and students who wish to come and speak to you. This clinic should be open to everyone and if conducted at the same time every day, it will become part of your routine. You will get lots of calls for students to change classes- the ubiquitous call of, ‘teacher, my level is too easy’, will resonate with those who have being doing the job for a while. Never be tempted to deal with these problems in the corridor. The time to do this is in the late afternoon or early evening when it’s quiet. Have your class lists ready and make all alterations there and then. If a group leader turns up speaking on behalf of a student, you must ask them to bring the student to you. In most cases, queries will be about level changes and you cannot do this through an intermediary. As a rule, you should accept some margin of error after testing and level placing students. If I had tested 300 students on Monday, I would expect about 4 or 5 students to come asking if they can be retested after their first lesson on Tuesday.

Wednesday

The last couple of days have been incredibly busy but today, you should be able to take the pressure off a little.

Teachers’ meeting

Due to the nature of summer school, things can change very rapidly, so start the day with a morning briefing, and remind teachers to have student reports ready for those leaving from their class groups by tomorrow morning. Help teachers who are unsure which students are leaving, i.e. going back home at the weekend, and if teachers share classes, make sure the work is fair and even, you don’t want a teacher writing 15 student reports while their co-teacher only writes 2.

Teaching

As classes begin, be around to help anyone who is lost and then try and visit all classes to check there are no major problems. Also, you should also check within the first 20 minutes for student absences.

Checking students are in class is the most important thing you do on a day-to-day basis. It’s part of safeguarding and should be taken very seriously. You should always think that if your learners are not where they are supposed to be, they are not being supervised and are therefore at risk. 99% of the time they are not going to be in any immediate danger but I have done this job for long enough to know that it’s worth following through with your actions for the 1% who may have decided to walk off campus to go to the local shops. Do remember that children, especially children not from the UK, are far more vulnerable than you could ever imagine. Stop what you are doing and find them.

All-day teaching centres

The afternoon mirrors the morning, but remember there may be a few other jobs that still need to be done. Did you manage to contact all new teachers for next week?

‘Clinic’

As you did yesterday, hold your late afternoon/early evening clinic for students and group leaders.

Thursday

Teachers’ meeting

During the morning briefing, check you have received all student reports from teachers.

Reports and certificates

After you have ensured all students are in class and that there are no major problems that need to be handled, get on with proofreading and collating reports. This should be done sooner rather than later as it will take time to get them printed and organised, ready to be given out to those students who are leaving. Our students typically leave at the weekend with their last lesson being on a Friday. I have learnt that you need at least 24 hours from receiving reports from teachers to you handing them out to each individual student.

Training

We should be investing in our teachers which means that at some point during the week we should be running some form of INSETT. Thursday always seems an optimal day to do this and depending on how people feel, I may run a workshop during the lunch break or if teachers are not too tired, a session straight after the last classes of the day. Do encourage teachers to come and make sure there are some refreshments available.

Talking of refreshments, do you need to order more tea and coffee? I better go and check the tea making area to see if stocks need replenishing…

‘Clinic’

Don’t forget to be available!

Friday

Teachers’ meeting

The last day of the teaching week! Start with your morning briefing and then check everyone is in class.

Reports and certificates

At the start of the final lessons of the morning- the last class for those students leaving this weekend- give each class teacher their student’s reports. Your school may have an award ceremony, we don’t. Instead, we have a mini-ceremony during the last 10 minutes of the class. Instruct teachers that if there are mistakes, they MUST bring the student to the teachers’ room straight after the lesson. Alterations should be done in the here and now and never left to later. If the teacher lets the student go, you may never be able to get that report back to them before they leave for home. It goes without saying that if you have 100 students or less in your school, then this is not going to be a big problem. Our student numbers are far greater and it therefore poses greater challenges.

Monday classes

At some point during the day, you should create class lists for Monday. Remove those students who are leaving and merge classes that need to be filled. After this is done, assign teachers to these class groups. Your student population may have dropped significantly- today you are running 10 classes but on Monday this may drop down to 5. Those who are not teaching will be testing the new student intake with you. Remember, these classes are only for Monday and will change again after the new student intake has been tested and joins the school.

Level predictions for Tuesday onwards

The next thing you should do is predict the levels for next week i.e. from Tuesday onwards. You are not a mind reader but you can be fairly accurate in terms of what level groups you are going to get. First look at the student body who are already here and will be staying next week. Now look at the ages and nationalities of the new intake. Use your experience of teaching to make a judgement call e.g. if you have two 13 year old males, one Italian and one German, what levels would you predict them to be? Or, you have a group of 11 year old French students, will they be at the lower end of the spectrum or higher? If you are going to have 10 classes running by Tuesday, assign your teachers to a level now, even before these learners have arrived. My experience has shown that you will always have some very low level learners and some very high level learners, however, if the bulk of your students are in their mid-teens, you will probably find most will be somewhere around the intermediates. Your 10 groups could look something like this: Group 1) A1/A2 Group 2) A2 Group 3) A2 Group 4) A2/B1 Group 5) B1 Group 6) B1 Group 7) B1/B2 Group 8) B2 Group 9) B2 Group 10) C1. From experience, you will be surprisingly accurate in your predictions.

Now that you have made a forecast, you should assign each levelled group to a teacher and classroom. There are good reasons for doing this, predominantly because teachers want to know and have plenty of time to plan their class in advance. If you are still testing your new student intake late on Monday evening, it’s not fair to have teachers waiting until you have finished. Just tell teachers to prepare for a particular level and expect the maximum number of students in their class. Everything else will take care of itself, your predictions will either be spot on, or never out by very much- teachers will naturally make adjustments as they go along.

Teachers’ meeting

After classes have finished and if teachers are done for the day and not required to work elsewhere, have some refreshments available, it will be appreciated. Tell everyone now what they will be doing on Monday- teaching or testing and have class lists available for everyone to see. Then inform everyone what they will be teaching on Tuesday.

Before you finish for the day, email any incoming teachers with the same information regarding what will be happening on Monday and Tuesday and other pertinent points they may need to know before arrival. Remember, the more people know, the easier the transition will be to life in summer school!

Class lists and student noticeboard

Print Monday’s class lists for teachers and display in the teachers’ room and then print a copy for student, which you will display on the noticeboard near the school meeting point. Remember student only need to see student’s names, teacher’s names and the room number in a table format. Everything else is superfluous and may confuse them. A few bullet point instructions may also come in handy e.g. ‘find your name’; ‘go to your class at 09:00’; ‘can’t see your name?’ ‘go to the office…’ etc.

Final jobs

Finally, does the teachers’ room need a quick tidy? It may also be worth having a quick look over those classrooms that have been in use this week, too.

Now go and put your feet up, you really need to rest!

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