There are a lot of posts on this topic, but I can't find any answers to my question.

I came across the following two definitions of 'school':

  1. [uncountable] (used without the or a) the process of learning in a school; the time during your life when you go to a school (British English)

  2. [uncountable] (used without the or a) the time during the day when children are working in a school

Source: http://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/school_1?q=school

I know there are better ways to convey the message, but which sentence would a teacher utter if he was a school teacher teaching students, adults, etc.? What about a janitor, director, and secretary?

I teach at/in school OR I teach at/in a school

The above definitions concern students, and not working individuals like teachers or janitors.

I would appreciate if you also stated whether you're American, Canadian, British, etc.

  • I'm a teacher and I teach school idioms.thefreedictionary.com/teach+school – Elian Feb 28 '16 at 21:23
  • 1
    @Elian - With respect to thefreedictionary, I'm a teacher and I teach students. I teach at St. Fidgeta's Academy. I teach at a small, rural boarding school. But I don't "teach school," except perhaps quite colloquially, here in the US. – Rob_Ster Feb 28 '16 at 21:29
  • @Rob_Ster Does the following text sound colloquial to you? books.google.fr/…; books.google.com/ngrams/… – Elian Feb 28 '16 at 21:44
  • I know about those, guys. I'd like to know what's your take on the expressions in question, though. – Fae Feb 28 '16 at 21:53
  • @Elian -Thanks! No, I admit that they don't. In what I hope is a friendly and collegial spirit, I see that both the links point to the phrase "taught school to-" with an infinitive indicating purpose afterwards. That sounds like a difference to me. What does sound colloquial is an unmodified declaration, he teaches school. My next door neighbor might say that of me, I suppose. But of the hundreds of professional colleagues that I've interacted with, few have said that of themselves. Perhaps we can compromise and call it "informal," here in the informal and friendly field of comments. – Rob_Ster Feb 28 '16 at 22:13

I believe you're trying to say where it is that you work and not what it is that you teach.

You have several options, but you'll need either a proper noun (e.g., Jackson Middle School) or the countable noun "school" and an article. It would also be natural to include the type of school (e.g., a high-school or a language school).

A: What do you do?

B: I teach at a ______ school.

When you say "I work (teach) at a school" you make a more general reference to location, one which does not specify that you work inside of the school.

A: What do you do?

B: I teach in a ______ school.

Teachers are in a classroom, and this is going to be what person A pictures in his/her mind.

Of course, the janitor also works at a/the school, as do the secretary and the director, but should each of these workers choose to say "in a school", they evoke different mental images. Person A would picture the secretary in his/her office, the director in his/her office, and the janitor in the hallway (perhaps pushing a mop).

When is there no article?

Teachers are "at the school" but students are "in school" (meaning in class) and "at school", whether they are in class, outside on the playground, or in the cafeteria.

Let's say that someone (A) telephones the janitor, the secretary, or the director:

A: Where are you?

JSD: I'm at work. -or- I'm still at the school.

Only the students are "at school", with no article. Adults work "at the school", with an article.

  • "I teach high school / middle school etc." sounds fine to my (admittedly non-native) ears, while "I teach school" doesn't. – Færd Feb 29 '16 at 2:50
  • @MJF: what about "She taught school for 40 years"? IMO, the problem with "I'm a teacher and I teach school" (with no type of school specified) is not grammar, but utter meaninglessness: where else are you going to teach? A grocery store? – Marthaª Feb 29 '16 at 3:22
  • That sounds fine too, @Marthaª , but school in your sentence isn't any more meaningful than it is in I teach school. BTW, I found tens of valid examples of teach school and taught school in COCA. I'm coming to terms with this expression. – Færd Feb 29 '16 at 3:54
  • @MJF: I think that because "she taught school" doesn't also say "she was a teacher", there's no redundancy, so "school" becomes meaningful: she probably taught elementary school, or maybe up to high school, but definitely not college. – Marthaª Feb 29 '16 at 6:10

A search in Corpus Of Contemporary American English for "I teach ... school" (with a gap of 0 to 4 words) yields 44 results, which can be classified as follows.
This corpus has five subcategories: spoken (SPOK), fiction (FIC), news (NEWS), magazine (MAG), and academic (ACAD).

  • a specific school (16 hits)
    The possible constructions are at the, at a, at [Ø] (zero article), and in a, as illustrated below:

    I teach at the school my kids attend. (MAG)
    I teach at The Farm Cooking School. (MAG)
    I teach at a school with a high number of' gifted' and high-achieving students. (ACAD)
    I teach Arabic at a nearby school (FIC)
    I teach in a school with hardworking, knowledgeable teachers. (NEWS)
    I teach in a private school. (NEWS)
    I teach students at [Ø] Columbine High School. (SPOK)

  • school with general meaning (15 hits)
    The possible constructions are apparent from the examples below:

    I teach summer school every year. (ACAD)
    I teach school. (MAG (1 time), SPOK (3 times))
    I'm a Roman Catholic and I teach Sunday school. (SPOK)
    I teach high school here at a private school. (SPOK)
    I teach history in high school. (SPOK)
    I teach religion in high school. (SPOK)

  • with school as modifier (11 hits)
    The possible construction is no preposition + zero article.

    I teach high school English. (SPOK (1 time), FIC (4 times))
    I teach high/middle school students. (SPOK (2 times), MAG (1 time))

  • invalid cases (2 hits)

    ...where I teach, the union and school board met for several months...
    ... kids that I teach leave high school and get jobs...

So, various constructions for you to choose from, depending on what you mean to get across. There may even be more possibilities which are not included in my search results, like "I teach in Lincoln High School" (but I guess at fits better in this particular one).

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.