George Lucas Educational Foundation
Subscribe to RSS

Alternatives to Teaching Summer School

Rebecca Alber

Edutopia Consulting Editor
Related Tags: Teacher Leadership
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share

Budget cuts did not spare summer school. Along with furloughs, pay cuts, and layoffs, it's been canceled in some schools, even districts, across the country. Teachers working in these districts and schools are unable to rely on that additional, and often much needed paycheck. This definitely leaves some worried folks out there.

Perhaps some of you in this situation are seeing this as a blessed curse; you are wincing at the financial loss yet excited for what the summer months may bring. What then to do with the next couple months, teachers? Catch up on sleep? Maybe venture out and try something new?

I'd like to offer suggestions with some even having earning potential:


A teacher colleague of mine started her own tutoring business where students would come to her house. She worked with kids one-on-one or in small groups. The business became so lucrative, particularly in the summer months, that she hired colleagues to help tutor. She ended up retiring a couple years early, traveling, and continuing to tutor when she was in town.

You don't have to limit your tutoring pool to grades K-12. Many college students are in need as well. Say you teach chemistry or advanced Spanish, why not visit the local college and the department of your expertise and put up a tutoring flier on their announcement board?

Returning to School

When you think of graduate school, and going for that master's or doctorate degree, do you get slight heart palpitations? All that work, the money, the time, but if it's a dream, when better than summer to research universities, get that paperwork together, and send off those applications?

Or this may be the time to begin the process of becoming a National Board Certified Teacher. Completing the entire process often means a guarantee of increase in your pay (check with your district). You can read here about one teacher's experience of getting certified.

Applying for Grants

There's money out there to be had! Not just for buying educational materials, or taking students on enriching field trips, but funding for your own growth as an educator. This could include out-of-state conferences, educational trips overseas, and professional development trainings. Check out this site and this one to get you started on the grant hunt.

Teaching Online

More and more schools and districts are offering online learning opportunities, primarily for high school students. This is a new and exciting field in education. It's a great time to connect with virtual schools out there and inquire about their programs. Check out this article for more information.


Already been to graduate school? Some university teacher education programs want experienced classroom teachers to work as advisors to their students who are first- and second-year teachers. Long gone is the old model where a student goes through a teacher education program then begins student teaching. Many urban districts have partnerships with college education departments so they can place teachers in unfilled positions in their more difficult-to-staff schools.


In some Los Angeles public schools Teach for America candidates are being brought in to teach summer school and will be assigned a master teacher from the school site to monitor, guide, and observe their lessons and classroom instruction. Is there a TFA partnership in your district? It may be worth looking into.

Volunteering & Adventuring

This could be your time to recharge, re-fuel, discover and grow so when you do return in the fall, you'll have that much more to give -- and share -- with your new students.

Habitat for Humanity has intrigued me since college. I love the idea of building something with a group of others, the satisfaction of it. I met a teacher at a professional development training a number of years ago who spent his summers volunteering with Habitat building homes for those less fortunate. He said he doubted he'd still be teacher if he'd not done this for himself every summer.

Adventuring may simply mean that you take the Eleanor Roosevelt quote straight to the heart: "Do one thing everyday that scares you." Pull that wild and crazy hat out and wear it to a concert, go dancing, stroll through a grassy park with your shoes off. Anything. Just go for it while your teacher identity is on the shelf for this short while.

Before you can blink, it's September. We've all been there. And it's pretty clear those first few days of school who taught summer school and who did not. Those that have spent most of the summer grading papers, managing children, and delivering lessons often seem plain exhausted, while our colleagues who've been MIA have a certain spring in their step, light in their eyes, and look ... rested.

Are you not teaching this summer due to budget cuts, or did you decide you needed some time away from the classroom? What are your plans for the summer? We'd love to hear!

Was this useful?

Rebecca Alber

Edutopia Consulting Editor
Related Tags:

Comments (7) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Sarah Thorman's picture

I am a newly certified teacher. I am not teaching this summer and it's not looking good for the fall either. In this economy, what does it take for a new teacher with a lot of passion but not a lot of experience to get a job? See my blog post on this topic at the Idealistic Educator

This summer I am coaching gymnastics part time at the local YMCA (which I've been doing for 13 years), but it's not really paying the bills. Luckily, with my husbands salary as well, we are scraping by for now. I'm not as concerned with the financial situation as I am with the fact that my education and talents are being wasted. I really feel I can be a great teacher given the opportunity and this is my 2nd career. I am not a 22 year old recent grad. I really want to get started in my classroom and begin making a difference!

Jana Williams's picture

What to do with that extra time that fate has allowed?

Look inside yourself to find what still excites you about learning; and DO IT. For me it was movies. I created a job for myself in the film trade which segued into writing screenplays, which morphed into TEACHING screenwriting & movie making. We are not static beings; we learn, we move on (not matter how anguishing the move) and we learn more.

If you want to bring enthusiasm back to the classroom in the fall; try something new. FILMMAKING WIZARDRY is geared to teachers who want to make movies with kids ( ) Try it. Maybe you'll discover a new passion too!


Alyson's picture

I found myself in this same dilemma. I taught summer school for three years and this year my school did not have summer school due to budget cuts. I decided to spend my time working at the YMCA. I am still actively involved with children and it is a very refreshing atmosphere!

Linda Martin's picture
Linda Martin
Advanced Academics Resource Teacher from Reston, VA

I love that quote by Eleanor Roosevelt-- "Do one thing everyday that SCARES you." LOL! While I'm not teaching this summer, I am enjoying expanding my passion for girls' equity. My friend and I have a GEMS Club (Girls Excelling in Math and Science) and we've spent the last four years giving workshops in our district and around the region to spread the strategies and the club idea throughout other schools. This summer we've been meeting with each other to plan how we're going to take this to the next level. We're working on broadening our scope and creating a mission vision statement, building a website, meeting with corporate sponsors and community stakeholders. The other day when we were about to draft our first email to the business partnership coordinator for our large district, I felt that sudden FEAR. My friend asked me what was wrong since I absolutely FROZE when I was about to type in his name. I told her I was actually scared of writing him. She said-- it's OK to be afraid, to feel fear, but you have to think what is the worst case scenario. I said-- he'll ignore us (common teachers with a mad passion and vision). She said-- that's ok, we'll keep trying like we always do. I breathed a sign of relief and then we drafted the email and pressed SEND. Wow, what a rush! It was exhilarating to know we are moving forward to making our dream a reality. All our hard work from the last four years will pay off and we are spending our time together clarifying and expanding our vision. It's scary but it's also EXCITING and invigorating!

Jennifer Gomez's picture

Making use of the summer is very important for teachers. I enjoyed reading the ideas of things to do with your time off other than teach summer school.

I left teaching 3 years ago because I could not balance teaching, being a new mom, and a single parent while my husband was deployed. I am hoping to return in the next 2 years. In the meantime I have started to care for children and teach preschool skills. I have tried to continue my practice of teaching and using technology. I have also started to work towards a masters degree.

Looking back, teaching summer school may have been one of my mistakes. Using the time to give yourself a mental break from being a teacher to being a student or trying something new is what summer should be about for teachers. I have come to understand from my first class in graduate school, that taking time to prevent burnout is a top priority for effective teachers.

Evelyn's picture
Learning Specialist, Writer

I tried something different--I published a young adult novel and kicked off the summer with a book launch. I did book signing at a overnight camp, and worked on marketing. I plan to visit schools during the year.

Pasquale DeVitto's picture

19 years!

Hard to believe!

Taught summer school for about 14 years. I also worked at restaurants year-round. I put in a lot of hours. Happily. I truly believe that I have (and still do) work for/with the best people ever.

Even when I served as a Grand Juror last January, I bonded with some of the kindest, intelligent, funny folks.

After my dad died, I decided to enjoy the summer. The first few years were pretty good. Last summer was not.

Of course, I would love to make some extra cash this summer. But, I'd rather volunteer my time wherever I can.

I live in NY (Long Island). Contact me if you think I can help out somehow!

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.