Simple English ~ Nicola Prentis

Thoughts on ELT, English and whatever else comes into my head

Summer School – the unluckiest job in the world

If you’re planning to do Summer School, you might want to think twice after reading this. Particularly if you’re doing it as an EFL teacher.

It seems that June and July are dangerous times. Just as you’re about the start the job you’ve accepted and signed a contract for, up to 25% of you will be struck down by a “grave medical condition” or “serious health problem” or will just have that mysterious affliction of “personal reasons” that will prevent you from working for the entire summer.

Even worse, many of you will lose a family member and have to attend their funeral on exactly the same dates as induction and you’ll be so devastated you won’t consider maybe starting work and taking your mind off the tragedy.

Not everyone will have to flake out for such inauspicious reasons. Some of our almost employees will find other, better jobs around this time and are professional enough to email and tell us a few days before we open 7 schools with over 1000 students. They hope, they say, we’ll understand that they must put their career first.

Of course we do. In no way will rejecting the job with us stand in the way of your future. After all, not bothering to turn up for a job you have accepted, and for which we’ve invested time and money in recruiting you for, is, unfortunately, something we won’t ever be able to give as a reference for you.

At least these people go to the effort of making up an excuse – although I’d recommend something a bit more original than the above. (Not because we’ll believe you – bullsh*t has a certain smell which envelops every rotten lie written – but just to momentarily lighten the black mood which follows the realisation that we’ve suddenly got to find someone else at extremely short notice.) There are a handful that don’t even have the grace to let us know. My centre is opening minus one member of staff that we knew about and one who just never showed up nor answered her phone or emails.

With the bad luck that seems to follow pre summer school staff, I do so hope nothing terrible has happened to her.

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10 comments on “Summer School – the unluckiest job in the world

  1. livinglearning
    July 9, 2013

    The other side of this, which as a middleman/ hiring manager is equally frustrating and the reason I refused to be responsible for hiring foreign teachers for camps ever again, is the administration telling you to interview and hire 6 people. You post the job advertisement, you collect resumes, you select your candidates and set up interviews, you make phone calls and you check back with the administration again with your choices before you make offers. They take three weeks before okaying everything, so when you make job offers the candidates have already taken positions elsewhere. So you offer the jobs to your second string with the same response. You frantically post the job ads again and take the first 6 people who apply. You report back to the administration. They say, “Oh, by the way, we only need four people.” Then you have to select the two you have to disappoint. You report back to the admin and they say, “Actually, we think three will be enough.” (At that point, I threw a tantrum and refused to unhire anyone else. We kept four people.)
    I totally understand the point of view you espouse in your post. This other side of it stinks as well.

    • Nicola
      July 10, 2013

      I think, but not 100% sure, that we don’t do that here. We do the turnaround from interview to hire quite fast as the person doing it (not me by the way, I run one of the centres) is the person who knows what we need so there’s no other layer. I can imagine the teeth ganshing frustration of the side you describe though.

  2. Tyson Seburn (@seburnt)
    August 7, 2013

    In some small portion of my heart, a twinkle of relief passes through me when teachers who have signed 4-week contracts during July or August, including statutory holidays, actually show up on the first day. Sad to think I’m suspect of the professionalism of those I hire.

    • Nicola
      August 8, 2013

      I feel relieved when they come back after their day off! 🙂

  3. AnnHawkins
    June 25, 2014

    I have no experience of the world you describe (there’s a “thank goodness” in there sotto voce) but it has set me to wondering what needs to happen to change this miserable experience for everyone. A radical redesign, not just of the hiring process but the job itself, to make it more attractive? Please don’t tell me its just about money.

  4. Isn’t it just the nature of the temporary and rather fluid summer school set-up that’s always going to be a bit of a juggling act on both sides? Over the years I’ve been let down by summer school work that either got completely cancelled at the last minute (disastrous as I’d just shelled out all my savings from a very low-paid job in Eastern Europe to fly back to the UK on the promise of a summer job) or in another case, ended up being cut down to half hours when I arrived. It means that as a teacher you have to keep your options open, just in case, and sometimes you don’t know until the last minute what’s going to work out.

  5. Nicola
    June 26, 2014

    I suppose that a school that doesn’t and wouldn’t do that suffers because teachers have got used to being treated like this but for me, if I had accepted a contract or issued one, I’d feel duty bound to honour it OR to say I have other offers I’m considering and I can let you know if I can take the job. It’s fine to do that, say, one month before a school starts…but less than one week – absolutely unacceptable.

    Schools that treat staff this way, cutting their hours etc despite a previous expectation, as you know from my thus far thwarted attempts to get a Teacher’s as Workers SIG off the ground, I find equally appalling. Making moves to end lack of professsionalism from institutions and schools would help create a culture where teachers felt more valued and therefore treated their contracts with more respect.

  6. I completely agree Nicola. Admittedly, my summer school experiences were some time ago, when I was a young and rather naive teacher and I was working in countries with extremely dodgy practices, so didn’t really know what was “the norm” or “acceptable”. And in both the cases I mentioned, I hadn’t received formal contracts in advance. I hope I’d be a bit more savvy nowadays and would spot the dodgy operators (which I’m sure still exist!) more easily.

  7. Bob LC
    October 18, 2015

    My personal experience of this from the other side many years ago. I found a supposedly reputable summer school in an area where I wanted to teach and approached them in the February, jumped through all of their hoops and then sat back waiting for the summer.

    About 2-3 weeks before the contract was due to start I rang them to ask them for more details, only to be told that I was definitely on their contact list and they would contact me if they needed me. I won’t tell you what my answer was but I don’t think that they are ever likely to employ me.

    Fortunately I was able to get a job with a school I had previously worked for albeit in a different location.

    Both schools and teachers need to look at themselves, yes schools are businesses and need to make money but teachers need respect and courtesy too.

    • Nicola
      October 18, 2015

      I have heard stories like that from friends and am always appalled. If you read this blog, you’ll know I’m no fan of language schools in general as I think they do things like this all too often. I’d love to see some system whereby an offer had to legally be followed up by a contract and that if the employee were no longer needed there was a mandatory notice period and anything that fell too close to the start date had to be compensated by the employer. I’d also like to see some objective rating of schools where no-one could be “supposedly reputable” as their misdeeds would follow them. The difficulty with that though is separating out genuine grievances from whingeing and axe grinding.

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This entry was posted on July 8, 2013 by in Summer School and tagged , , .
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