Teaching At Summerhill
Teaching at Summerhill is a creative challenge. We want staff to be people first, and active members of the democratic community. However Summerhill is a school, with classrooms and teachers. Children do not have to come to lessons, but as a teacher your responsibility is to deliver an excellent program for those children who wish to attend, to remain neutral towards those who do not, and be encouraging with students who wish to begin learning.
Showing enthusiasm for your subject is a natural part of being you and is encouraged.
It is important that the children know that you value play and classroom activities equally and that you value classroom activities and play equally. No preference one-way or another is to be made or implied by you. Any preference is up to the child to make.
Children will develop a close relationship with you as a teacher, and since classes are very small, your influence can be much greater than in a traditional school environment. It is important for children to know that you value their attendance and enjoy teaching but will not feel upset or in any way annoyed should they miss a lesson or choose not to continue with your subject.
Humour can be an important element in the classroom, and a relaxed and friendly approach is best. This does not mean, however, that lessons cannot be precise and well organised!
There is nothing wrong with exam students knowing that some lesson work outside of class may be helpful to them but your lessons should not be dependent upon the completion of homework.
Your classroom is your own, and students do not have to attend and therefore may be asked to leave if there is disruption (a rare event), or you may ask for an ombudsman case or bring a student up in a meeting. Students, equally, may also ask for an ombudsman case or bring you up in a meeting if for some reason they feel that they are being treated unfairly.
Your classroom is also a professional school space and should be kept well organised; attractive to your taste and safe ... Risk Assessments must be done on a regular basis.
Each teacher is, in effect, the head of a department. As such, it is your responsibility to be up-to-date with relevant exam board information, changes in your syllabus, and, at lower Key stages, with the National Curriculum. (We do not have to follow it but need to be up to date about what it contains).
Your curriculum content may be from a government syllabus but in non-exam classes it may be created by you. It is fine to discuss student interests but you do have the final say. Your curriculum will first and foremost interest the students but at the same time should connect with future required skills when necessary. Just plain fun in the subject is also great.
At Summerhill daily observation of work and learning is the best type of assessment. Our classes are so small that this form of 'Family Observation' is very accurate. You should, however, be able to produce a written assessment of students who have attended lessons if required. A daily register should be kept, not to track attendance in the traditional sense but so that you can take a look, from time to time, at who is doing what. That way you can ask questions about your classroom, your teaching etc. Are you meeting the needs and interests of as many children as possible? Your lessons must, of course, be accessible to children of all abilities.
It is important to have a personal record of daily lessons and work covered, and of 'next steps' ... with individuals or with groups. This can be brief, but will give you a path to guide you forward, and also enable you to look back should a student return to your lessons after a time away.
You will work with the other staff and Zoe & Will and are responsible for creating and maintaining a Curriculum Outline and Schemes of Work. You will also write an annual Self Evaluation and participate with other staff in our Peer Review process.
At the beginning of a term each teacher takes part in Sign-up, where students choose the lessons that they want to attend. Our timetable is created using student sign-up interests. The number of lessons you will have on the formal timetable will depend upon the number of students who choose your subject. This means that some terms you will have a 'heavy' formal timetable, sometime a light one. If you have a lot of empty spaces on your timetable it is important to review this: can you offer some students extra lessons? Can you offer other subjects you may be interested in or that might be helpful to the school and students? This can be discussed with Zoë, Will or other long-standing staff.
If you are a new teacher your mentor will meet with you every couple of weeks during your first term and once a month during the second to see how you are getting along or to answer any of your questions. You may, of course, seek assistance at any time from Zoë or Will, or other long-standing staff.
Finally, since students do not have to attend lessons it follows that they sometimes won't. You should not take this personally. As a teacher you are there to do your best and create an attractive atmosphere but definitely not there to 'lure children' into your classroom. If you find yourself alone then do some creative work, some admin work, pursue a personal interest, or take a break and have a cup of tea or coffee!