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"So you're a teacher, huh?" says the umpteenth Joe Know-It-All. It's late spring, and I know the tone, and I know what's coming. "Must be nice having summers off," he sneers.

I don't know what mythical job this guy thinks I have, but I've never had a summer off.

9 Education-Related Summer Tasks

I don't know who started this legend of the well-rested teacher who sits around all summer long sippin' sangrias without a thought of prepping for the year before them, but I've never met those teachers -- if they even exist.

Bottom line is that every year since entering teaching (I am a second-career teacher, having come from The World Beyond), I have seen some of the busiest summer months of my life. For many of us, this is for a variety of reasons:

1. We work summer school.

Let's face it, who doesn't need the moola? So that’s a few hours a day that we still spend with students, as well as the hours we spend prepping for those classes. There are enrichment classes to be taught, as well as credit recovery classes and RTI classes that are high stakes to many and often filled with students who resent having to be there. Not relaxing. Furthermore, you generally are displaced from your own classroom and your own toolbox, so we set up a new learning environment for a whole new slew of students that we'll only have for a month or so.

2. We attend department and curriculum meetings.

This summer, many of us are working on developing or revising the grade level mock-Common Core Performance Tasks for our districts. We might be finding multimedia text sets and developing a choice of prompts in an attempt to prepare our new students using current teacher-developed assessments

3. We improve on our curriculum.

Lessons and units that may have proven to be dusty, clunky, or just downright "meh" get reworked, revised, or dumped altogether.

4. We curate and develop libraries of new lessons.

We spend time finding inspiration for new lessons, researching resources that will work for the students to come. For instance, all year long, from Sept to June, I fill a file on my desktop of resources, headlines, and links that I plan to sift through over the summer for lesson inspiration. I go through my Facebook and Twitter feeds, readers, and blogrolls. Summertime is when I develop project-based learning units to save myself much-needed time during the actual school year.

5. We learn the new technology or curriculum programs purchased by our schools.

Sometimes, we leave for summer laden with newly-adopted curriculum that we want to understand before the start of school. Additionally, many of us are now being asked to pilot or adopt anything from a class set of iPads to a class set of Chromebooks, and it takes brainstorming procedures ahead of time for these newly adopted technologies to be used as deeply and efficiently as they can be.

6. We write, blog, or comment.

We maintain our online relationships so that collaboration is easier throughout the school year. After all, not all answers will come from your own staff. You have to develop and maintain a VLC (virtual learning community) as well as a PLC. Resources come from everywhere.

7. We continue our own professional development or help run others.

We take classes, attend webinars, and develop PD to share our expertise. I, for one, find myself participating in more Twitter conversations or Google Hangouts during the summer months. It's a 24-7-365 education conference out there!

8. We set up our classroom environments for the next year.

Remember that kitchen scene in Poltergeist? The one where the table and chairs are stacked to the ceiling? Well, that's what greets us when we arrive in August to set up our rooms. Needless to say, that's not what greets the students days later. A great classroom that's ready to go by the first day of school does not magically happen. And it rarely happens during the day or two before school starts for which we are contractually paid. Nope, we have to come in over the summer or come in early (assuming the office staff will give us the key) to make our classroom the awesome place it can be. Those days are filled with you moving student desks from the pile in the middle of the room, putting up your bulletin boards, shoving shelves back into place, and tracking down furniture that somehow ended up in some other teacher's room.

9. I heal and recharge my batteries.

It's true. By the end of the year, teachers are limping toward vacation. And by the end of summer school, the mythical two months suddenly really only amounts to three weeks to plan, prep, learn, tweak, scab over, and (yes) rest.

Teachers as Yearlong Learners

Back to my Joe Know-It-All: I really should've asked if he wanted to spend his year doing what I do. I spend every day existing at the pace of my middle school students. Frankly, I deserve some time off after that! Nevertheless, if I were being honest with myself, I don't know how I would ever function with it.

After all, thinking like a teacher never ends. And when you love teaching, you can't just turn it off at the end of June.

You still continue to search for books to replenish your classroom library. When a big news story comes out, you immediately try to seek out that last copy of the New York Times to use as a primary document. You pick up props and realia to supplement your lesson plans.

Truthfully, we need the breaks we get in order to do the job that we do ten months of the year. The other two months are spent doing other equally important aspects of the job.

Civilians don't realize the toll that teaching takes on a person. Ever compared pictures of a U.S. president before his term began and after it ended? Well, teaching's kinda like that. Adult humans aren't built to spend their days with hundreds of children. It takes a lot out of an adult to have his or her antennae up so high, so often, so consistently.

And yet we have troops of people willing to return to the classroom year after year and willing to join their ranks, with no summer break, just for the honor of calling themselves teachers.

Hope you have a productive summer, a summer filled with learning, and a summer with a few moments of rest.

How are you planning on spending your summer "off?"

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Donna's picture

Actually...I make 70k a year with a Master's degree after 20 years in the classroom in Southern California. However, the average mortgage or rent here is $2400 a month. And I have an average of 35 students in my classes topping out at 42 in middle school. Believe it or not, 70k is barely making it here. It's all relative...in the U.S. teachers do not make the comfortable living they should be, nor get the respect that is deserved. I am hoping the pendulum will swing in a different direction, as we have become quite the scapegoats. :-/

Charles Luke's picture

I was a teacher and then an administrator for years and my wife is a teacher. "Summers off" is a joke! Three weeks at best. As an administrator I once asked the district to put me on a 12 month contract rather than 11 because I spent all of my "off" time hiring staff and generally got about a week off. I thought I might as well get paid for my work. The district said no way!

Mrs. D. Teacher librarian's picture

I agree with many of you. Teaching almost 1500 students a year is a very important job and one that takes much planning, communicating with department chairs, administrators, and parent groups. To be "on" every single day from 7 am to after 3 pm for 10 months can be exhausting. Rewarding and worth-while Yes! This is a great career for anyone who is creative, intuitive, and really enjoys working with students who may love reading and education to students who are reluctant and resistant learners. You need to be a person who can stay balanced and be available every minute of the day to assist young learners to become more confident readers and users of technology and do it with enthusiasm and respect. My time off is spent ensuring I'm resting, reading , and regaining my sense of purpose before I return to my school in mid August.

Keith B.'s picture

Don't forget that some of us have summer jobs to help pay off the loans we used to become teachers.

Jane's picture

I'm a 20 year classroom teacher who is making the jump to literacy coach this summer. In addition to teaching this past year, I spent hours after school in fast paced trainings. This summer I am part of the Summer Intensive Training that involves teaching and coaching during summer school, and training and teaching during the afternoons. 7 weeks. Intensive, right? But the downside is that I took a 62% salary reduction to participate in this fast paced! working lunch! jam packed experience. Because our county only pays a small stipend to summer school teachers and trainings during the summer. While I love every second of it, because teaching reading is my heart, my bills and expenses did not take a 62% decrease.

Amanda B.'s picture

Here in Ontario teachers at the top of the pay scale - which most teachers can attain in 10 or 15 years - make $100000 per year, including universal health care benefits and other great benefits. Teachers are very well paid and they really do get nice long summer breaks. And this is good for teachers and society.

(1)
Terry Jolliffe's picture

And now, for the rest of the story...I have been at my current institution since 1984 and am considering retirement. Even though I've been here for 31 years, I only receive service credit for 13 years, because I worked the first 21 years as an adjunct.(part time) As an adjunct, I often took assignments in different areas of the college and almost always had full time hours; however, the Texas legislature does not believe that my service deserves consideration when it comes to retirement. To add insult to injury, my "princely" pension of $1700 per month, and the fact that TEXAS wouldn't let me pay Social Security, means that I cannot collect anything from my ex-husband's account.

It won't be a busy summer; it will be no summers until I just can't work any more.

Susan Keeney's picture

I try very hard to not do anything school related for at least the month of July (our district in Silicon Valley runs from mid-August to mid-June) and I'm lucky enough to be able to afford doing so. Most teachers need to disengage from the hectic pace of the classroom, as well as from some of the frustrations of the job (poor administrative decisions, lack of funding, large numbers of students, etc.) I go back to work in August refreshed, unstressed, stronger and ready to go!

Yahoo's picture

I am SO **(TIRED)** of you TEACHERS always CRYING about how things are SO BAD, and the LONG hours that teachers work!

If teaching for YOU is SO BAD, then (QUIT)! You took the JOB and you should have known what YOU are getting into!

TEACHERS get so MANY (DAYS OFF)...from HOLIDAYS, to SUMMER days off!
And don't try an sell us because you don't get PAID for the SUMMER
days off! You teachers get PAID an **(ANNUAL SALARY)**, that (INCLUDES
being PAID for the SUMMER days OFF) that the kids get.

Then you teachers WHINE about having to put in EXTRA time after your
**(9 to 3)** teaching job. You mean like the EXTRA time that (MOST
REGULAR working PEOPLE) put in for a 9 to 5 job, and then have to work
OVERTIME!

If TEACHING is so BAD, then (QUIT)! And go do something ELSE!
REGULAR people jobs put WAY MORE time in than TEACHERS, and we DON'T get 3
MONTHS plus EXTRA school HOLIDAYS off...which WE have to WORK our 9 to 5 for most of those 3 SUMMER months that YOU and your kids get VACATION! Once again, your ANNUAL SALARY
INCLUDES the (PAY for 3 MONTHS) vacation that the kids get!

Teachers STOP WHINING!!!!!

Suzy Brooks's picture
Suzy Brooks
Grade Three teacher, Dreaming Big on Cape Cod

I was late entering the teaching profession, so I've spent as much time working in the "business" world as I have working in the "education" world.

I think someone should report on the divorce rate for teachers, because teaching can be ALL consuming if you allow it to be. Even if you are working hard to find the balance between obligations at home, and what you feel is necessary to do a good job at school, teaching still feels paramount! My students need me! I have a responsibility to do all that is necessary for each of them to work towards their potential while they are in my care. I take my job very seriously, sometimes at the expense of other things I should consider equally. I never faced these obligatory feelings when working outside of teaching.

With school ending in three weeks, I am constantly hearing how stressed-out everyone is. We have to give the kids countless required assessments, fill out report cards (42 grades for each 8-year-old) place the 100 kids in this group into balanced groups for next year, thank our amazing volunteers, adjust our packed schedule for end-of year activities, pack up classroom materials (I'm changing rooms again this year), find meaningful closure for our current students, and prepare for the incoming students by arranging summer trainings, etc...

I have to admit, typing this list stressed me out a little, as I still have more to add, but think I've made my point.

Parents are letting us know how crazy things are at home, and we hear them! Most of us are parents, struggling with the same endless parade of after-school events. Spring has sprung, and Summer is swooping in faster than I'd like it to. I'd like another 10 days of school, please.

Please!

I am extremely thankful for my job. I am thankful for having received a raise each year, while my husband, who works in the business sector, has received no raise in three years.

I am thankful for my time off. I pour so much of myself, and my energy, into my teaching, that I think I would completely lose my balance if I had to go full-throttle year-round.

In an unstable economy, I am able to provide for my family, and for that, I am thankful.

My summers are the envy of my friends. My time commitment and obligations are more transparent (less obvious) during the summer. I have more down-time, and my schedule is more flexible. I can have more than a 25 minute lunch, and restroom visits are plentiful. Doctor, dentist and other necessary appointments fill many summer days, as I try SO hard to avoid these during the school year. My beach reading selections are teaching-related. My vacations often center around trips to workshops, or educational destinations. My teenagers LOVE those, ha ha.

I work VERY hard during my summer, but those 10 weeks are certainly a welcomed respite from my non-stop-go-go-take-no-prisoners school year. Finding that Elusive Balance during the summer is easier, which hopefully makes up for the rest of the year! My vacation is wonderful, but certainly not the wide-open expanse of bon-bons and bonfires that some prefer to portray.

Let's just say, that I never chose my profession based on the time I spend away from it. I chose it because of the time I get to spend IN it.

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Rosemarie Schaut's picture
Rosemarie Schaut
English, ESL and A P Literature and Composition Teacher Ridgway, PA

It is impossible to "prepare well" for the following year while teaching in the previous one -- especially if the following year brings sweeping changes in curriculum or scheduling. My school requires all teachers to sponsor a club and also to have Professional Development goals which involve outside training. We are also required to arrive before the students and stay for office hours after the students leave. I do not know what grades or subjects you teach, but I teach English and bring a lot of paperwork home as a result. It is not because I am wasting time during my work day. I do not, cannot grade papers while I am teaching. I also cannot prepare for new novels one year that will be taught the next. I only get a prep every OTHER day,and usually spend that time running copies (no secretary to do that for us), calling parents, typing up an IEP report or a College recommendation, coaching a speech student, covering for another teacher, or attending a meeting, etc. This means that my planning, grading, and keeping up with online lesson planning, online notes to parents and students, and next year, an online course, all takes place after school hours.

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Jay's picture

For me teaching is fun and I love to do it. During the school year many of my weekends are spent at the school in my classroom. Many days I don't leave work until six or seven. I am okay with that. That's what it takes for me to do the job and do it well. But summers are mine.

The first two weeks of summer I sleep until 11 or noon each day. Get up fix a cup of coffee and read a good book that has nothing to do with work or kids literature. I do all of my required doctor visits and car repairs......all scheduled for late afternoons. I go out to dinner with friends because I don't cook. I accept all social invitations that come along. By the third week I begin to travel. This summer I will explore Italy with a side trip to Jordan. For several summers I volunteered in Ghana, West Africa with Cross Cultural Solutions. I volunteer in schools if I get there early enough or in the villages when I get there after school is finished. This summer I am going to Costa Rica but haven't decided if I will volunteer when I am there or just lay on the beach for three weeks. After my vacation I return home and do some more relaxing and reconnecting with friends and family. I am an Oprah junkie so I read all 9 of the Oprah magazines that have piled up and gathered dust on my desk during the school year. I read trashy novels or self-help crap that I will never be able to follow through on but it's mindless reading. I overeat and exercise to fight off the effects of all the overeating. It's about this time....eight weeks into the vacation that I actually allow myself to start thinking about work. But if it's still July I simply force myself to think about something else. I am not allowed to think about school until August 1st. That is a rule I never break. No school work or even thoughts of school until August. August is when I start preparing for the upcoming school year. If I can't prepare in three weeks then it is time to quit.

My philosophy when it comes to summer vacations is that I can't take care of the kids unless I take care of myself. I have to refresh and renew my mind. I don't want to whine and complain about how I can't have a regular summer because it will make me bitter......even if it is subconscious bitterness it will flow into my work. When school starts on August 20 something I will be there with a smile on my face with genuine excitement and happiness ready for a new group kids and a new set of problems. My energy will be renewed and my mind will be rested.

I have been in teaching long enough to see what happens when teachers don't "take care of themselves first". They become what we jokingly call "venemous veterans". VVs have nothing good to say about the kids, the school or the parents. They are just bitter. I will quit before that happens to me! The only way to fight off the VV status is to take good care of yourself and manage your time wisely.

So when someone says "It must be nice to have summers off" I give them a huge smile and say "YES IT IS LOVELY". When the kids ask about my summer I have a nice slide show for all to see! Then we are off to another fast paced crazy year!!! I LOVE IT!

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Pamela Smith's picture

Jay,
There are parts of your response that I really like. At first I thought that your comment about not thinking about school until August 1 was pure genius. I'm going to try to remember the "venomous veterans" bit! That made me laugh. I have to say that we teachers shouldn't do anything that we HAVE to do during the summer, like taking on other teaching jobs, painting our own rooms, taking or teaching more classes/seminars, or learning new technology.

But I have to admit that the first thing I do during summer break is peruse my anecdotal notes to consider changes for next year. I worry a little over the student who didn't make as much progress as I hoped she would... and I begin to wonder what I can do to provide more help next year.

I gather my stack of the latest reading on best practices and new research. I read a LOT of other books during the summer (trashy romances, griping murder mysteries, and on...), but my MUST read list is mostly geared toward teaching.

My summer is never JUST for me... I take that back! I've wanted to be a teacher since about my second week in Kindergarten. No lie! This is what I love. It isn't my LIFE, it's just what I choose to DO while my life goes on. I work during the summer... when the spirit moves me, and don't consider that to be an imposition into my "real" life.

So I can't just put teaching on hold during summer vacation. Yes, it is a vacation. I don't have to be anywhere on time, I don't have endless meetings to attend, I don't have playground duty.

I DO have to attend to where my next year will take me. Two months is just enough time to prepare for 10 months of work with a bunch of 12 - 14 year old students; it is just enough time to think about it all in a leisurely way, on my schedule. Which allows me some time to travel, read, listen to baseball games, cook, hang out with my grandkids, and watch nature outside my window.

I think the writer of the original article was trying to make some kind of point. I've been teaching for 27 years, and I've NEVER known a teacher to take on as much summer work as the writer described. That seems crazy to me! I agree that I have to take care of myself in order to be good for the kids. I just don't agree that that means I should NEVER think about my job during the summer.

(1)
Sarah's picture

First, to clarify, We don't have summers off (paid vacation). Summers off is a dream. Summers off are a choice. Can I afford not to work over the summer: maybe, if my husband makes enough money. Or, if the daycare costs more than the money that I will make working. We have have a contract for the school year. In some districts, teachers are laid off every year (but they can't collect unemployment due to the promise of a possible job in the fall, if the budget passes on July 31st). So, whatever a teacher choses to do or not do is their choice. They are not paid for this time.

When did teachers stop being human beings? We aren't perfect. We are going to make mistakes. Teachers are people, too.

Teachers are often defensive: Generally, we put a great deal of time and effort into what we do. We have a personal investment in our students and in our classrooms. Caring about something deeply often makes one defensive. We are tired. We work hard. We work in a giving profession. Teachers bond with our students: "in loco parentis". Our students are our children. We care about what happens to our students. We want them to succeed. We are personally invested and are therefore often defensive. We are attacked daily by individuals, the government and the press. The negativity is oppressive. The anger is schocking.

On the different levels in the classroom: they exist. We have full inclusion. Pull outs are not allowed, per parent and state mandate. Plus, there are many more students needing special ed, Ell and other services. This is real. This is not every class or every classroom, but it is most in public schools. You also have to remember that this is only the academic level. The emotional intelligence and social intelligence levels are also divergent. Divorce, death, poverty, transience, trauma and society all have an impact on our children.

I am a teacher of 18 years. I love teaching. This is my first summer off since I began teaching. Every year, I have either worked two or three jobs, including summer school. I have chosen to take this summer off to teach my own children, childcare costs more than I can make. I will also be working on my curriculum and planning for the school year.

(1)
Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program

Hi worried-
Don't despair. Teaching (like many jobs in the service professions) CAN be exhausting. It's also exhilarating and joyful and the best way to change the world. Check out these links for a more positive outlook:

Young People: Don't Be Afraid to Become a Teacher!
http://www.edutopia.org/blog/young-people-dont-fear-teaching-career-elen...

Why We Teach
http://www.edutopia.org/blog/teacher-appreciation-why-we-teach-margaret-...

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RWM Librarian's picture

If it makes people feel better, they don't have to think of it as a paid summer off. Instead, think of it as a 10 and 1/2 month job whose payments are spread out over a year-long period (except where teachers don't get a paycheck in the summer--we don't always, you know). And let's be honest--we basically get a 10 and 1/2 month salary. When I calculate my part-time salary based on the 43 weeks a year for which I'm contracted, it comes out to about $24 an hour--on par with similar jobs requiring a Master's degree.

So, noone's getting overpaid here--our salaries are exactly right for the amount of time we're contracted. We are grossly underpaid, however, when one calculates the amount of work we do outside the classroom and beyond the school day (10-20 hours a week based on research).

(3)
Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Manager

I don't think this is a game of who works harder. If you look at the labor statistics, everyone's working harder now-a-days, with a lot less downtime and vacations all around. The point, I think, is that this is true for teachers too, and that "summer vacations" aren't necessarily that.

(4)
Gwyneth Jones - The Daring Librarian's picture

Is the title of my recent blog posting about this same topic! (Google title, first hit) ...Yet mine was more of a LOVE FEST than a defensive diatribe. Just sayin.
I can be an amazing educator, international speaker - presenting in San Diego & invited to go on a 3 city speaking tour of Australia, Tweet every (or every other) day, blog, and still relax, read, re-charge, and re-invigorate my practice enjoying my summers off! See? We have the liberty to choose how we spend it. I also spend great time pampering myself. I get a weekly massage, visit friends, go out to lunches, shop, and READ.
We have the BEST profession in the WORLD if you've answered a calling and are committed and passionate! If you're defensive and prickly...you'll be doomed to be bitter, unhappy, and stressed. Sad, really. Teaching is a joyous experience!...and SO IS SUMMER!
Cheers!
~Gwyneth Jones
The Daring Librarian

(1)
Jeff Bigler's picture
Jeff Bigler
High school physics teacher in Lynn, Mass.

I really don't like the complaining that teachers do. It gives the profession a bad name.

One of the many reasons I went into teaching (as a third career) was because of the summer vacations--I think it's important as a parent to be able to spend quality time with my children while they're still of an age when it makes a tremendous difference.

Sure, I continue to do things relating to teaching during the summer. For example, this summer I'm finishing co-authoring a lab for the AP Chemistry lab manual, which the College Board will publish next spring. I also just (this week) announced and set up a wiki where AP Chemistry teachers can collaborate to write additional inquiry-based labs beyond the ones that will be in the manual. I'm starting work on a book about motivating and engaging students in the classroom. I'm upgrading my MOODLE online courseware site, which was four major software releases out of date. I'm editing 350-400 pages of class notes because my department head arranged for me to be able to use them instead of the textbook (because my students find the notes to be much more useful), and they need to be ready for the copiers. I am also revising my assessments to make them a little easier to grade. (This is because I'm going to have 165 students next year. If I can cut the grading time down to 3 minutes for each test, that will cut my grading time down to 8 hours per test. Yes, I could just give machine-scored multiple choice tests, but I get enough additional benefits from seeing how my students approach free-response problems and using that to inform instruction that it makes it worth the extra grading time.)

However, truth be told, I am enjoying all of these tasks. Every single one of them is something I have voluntarily chosen to do. I could easily have said no to any that I didn't want to do, or if I had been concerned about how much time they would take. As it is, I am enjoying the flexibility to be able to work on a few long-term projects for a couple of months. If I felt the need to complain, that would be a symptom of the real problem, which is either the choice of the tasks themselves or paying inadequate attention to the cumulative workload.

I also don't like it when teachers complain about money. Yes, I made significantly more money in industry; yes, it would be nice to make more money than I do currently; and yes, I think teachers are compensated less than many other professions for the quality and quantity of work that we do. But I have what I need, and the job satisfaction has proven to be worth much more to me than the additional money.

(1)
Pamela Smith's picture

Jay,
There are parts of your response that I really like. At first I thought that your comment about not thinking about school until August 1 was pure genius. I'm going to try to remember the "venomous veterans" bit! That made me laugh. I have to say that we teachers shouldn't do anything that we HAVE to do during the summer, like taking on other teaching jobs, painting our own rooms, taking or teaching more classes/seminars, or learning new technology.

But I have to admit that the first thing I do during summer break is peruse my anecdotal notes to consider changes for next year. I worry a little over the student who didn't make as much progress as I hoped she would... and I begin to wonder what I can do to provide more help next year.

I gather my stack of the latest reading on best practices and new research. I read a LOT of other books during the summer (trashy romances, griping murder mysteries, and on...), but my MUST read list is mostly geared toward teaching.

My summer is never JUST for me... I take that back! I've wanted to be a teacher since about my second week in Kindergarten. No lie! This is what I love. It isn't my LIFE, it's just what I choose to DO while my life goes on. I work during the summer... when the spirit moves me, and don't consider that to be an imposition into my "real" life.

So I can't just put teaching on hold during summer vacation. Yes, it is a vacation. I don't have to be anywhere on time, I don't have endless meetings to attend, I don't have playground duty.

I DO have to attend to where my next year will take me. Two months is just enough time to prepare for 10 months of work with a bunch of 12 - 14 year old students; it is just enough time to think about it all in a leisurely way, on my schedule. Which allows me some time to travel, read, listen to baseball games, cook, hang out with my grandkids, and watch nature outside my window.

I think the writer of the original article was trying to make some kind of point. I've been teaching for 27 years, and I've NEVER known a teacher to take on as much summer work as the writer described. That seems crazy to me! I agree that I have to take care of myself in order to be good for the kids. I just don't agree that that means I should NEVER think about my job during the summer.

(1)
Jay's picture

For me teaching is fun and I love to do it. During the school year many of my weekends are spent at the school in my classroom. Many days I don't leave work until six or seven. I am okay with that. That's what it takes for me to do the job and do it well. But summers are mine.

The first two weeks of summer I sleep until 11 or noon each day. Get up fix a cup of coffee and read a good book that has nothing to do with work or kids literature. I do all of my required doctor visits and car repairs......all scheduled for late afternoons. I go out to dinner with friends because I don't cook. I accept all social invitations that come along. By the third week I begin to travel. This summer I will explore Italy with a side trip to Jordan. For several summers I volunteered in Ghana, West Africa with Cross Cultural Solutions. I volunteer in schools if I get there early enough or in the villages when I get there after school is finished. This summer I am going to Costa Rica but haven't decided if I will volunteer when I am there or just lay on the beach for three weeks. After my vacation I return home and do some more relaxing and reconnecting with friends and family. I am an Oprah junkie so I read all 9 of the Oprah magazines that have piled up and gathered dust on my desk during the school year. I read trashy novels or self-help crap that I will never be able to follow through on but it's mindless reading. I overeat and exercise to fight off the effects of all the overeating. It's about this time....eight weeks into the vacation that I actually allow myself to start thinking about work. But if it's still July I simply force myself to think about something else. I am not allowed to think about school until August 1st. That is a rule I never break. No school work or even thoughts of school until August. August is when I start preparing for the upcoming school year. If I can't prepare in three weeks then it is time to quit.

My philosophy when it comes to summer vacations is that I can't take care of the kids unless I take care of myself. I have to refresh and renew my mind. I don't want to whine and complain about how I can't have a regular summer because it will make me bitter......even if it is subconscious bitterness it will flow into my work. When school starts on August 20 something I will be there with a smile on my face with genuine excitement and happiness ready for a new group kids and a new set of problems. My energy will be renewed and my mind will be rested.

I have been in teaching long enough to see what happens when teachers don't "take care of themselves first". They become what we jokingly call "venemous veterans". VVs have nothing good to say about the kids, the school or the parents. They are just bitter. I will quit before that happens to me! The only way to fight off the VV status is to take good care of yourself and manage your time wisely.

So when someone says "It must be nice to have summers off" I give them a huge smile and say "YES IT IS LOVELY". When the kids ask about my summer I have a nice slide show for all to see! Then we are off to another fast paced crazy year!!! I LOVE IT!

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Rosemarie Schaut's picture
Rosemarie Schaut
English, ESL and A P Literature and Composition Teacher Ridgway, PA

It is impossible to "prepare well" for the following year while teaching in the previous one -- especially if the following year brings sweeping changes in curriculum or scheduling. My school requires all teachers to sponsor a club and also to have Professional Development goals which involve outside training. We are also required to arrive before the students and stay for office hours after the students leave. I do not know what grades or subjects you teach, but I teach English and bring a lot of paperwork home as a result. It is not because I am wasting time during my work day. I do not, cannot grade papers while I am teaching. I also cannot prepare for new novels one year that will be taught the next. I only get a prep every OTHER day,and usually spend that time running copies (no secretary to do that for us), calling parents, typing up an IEP report or a College recommendation, coaching a speech student, covering for another teacher, or attending a meeting, etc. This means that my planning, grading, and keeping up with online lesson planning, online notes to parents and students, and next year, an online course, all takes place after school hours.

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Suzy Brooks's picture
Suzy Brooks
Grade Three teacher, Dreaming Big on Cape Cod

I was late entering the teaching profession, so I've spent as much time working in the "business" world as I have working in the "education" world.

I think someone should report on the divorce rate for teachers, because teaching can be ALL consuming if you allow it to be. Even if you are working hard to find the balance between obligations at home, and what you feel is necessary to do a good job at school, teaching still feels paramount! My students need me! I have a responsibility to do all that is necessary for each of them to work towards their potential while they are in my care. I take my job very seriously, sometimes at the expense of other things I should consider equally. I never faced these obligatory feelings when working outside of teaching.

With school ending in three weeks, I am constantly hearing how stressed-out everyone is. We have to give the kids countless required assessments, fill out report cards (42 grades for each 8-year-old) place the 100 kids in this group into balanced groups for next year, thank our amazing volunteers, adjust our packed schedule for end-of year activities, pack up classroom materials (I'm changing rooms again this year), find meaningful closure for our current students, and prepare for the incoming students by arranging summer trainings, etc...

I have to admit, typing this list stressed me out a little, as I still have more to add, but think I've made my point.

Parents are letting us know how crazy things are at home, and we hear them! Most of us are parents, struggling with the same endless parade of after-school events. Spring has sprung, and Summer is swooping in faster than I'd like it to. I'd like another 10 days of school, please.

Please!

I am extremely thankful for my job. I am thankful for having received a raise each year, while my husband, who works in the business sector, has received no raise in three years.

I am thankful for my time off. I pour so much of myself, and my energy, into my teaching, that I think I would completely lose my balance if I had to go full-throttle year-round.

In an unstable economy, I am able to provide for my family, and for that, I am thankful.

My summers are the envy of my friends. My time commitment and obligations are more transparent (less obvious) during the summer. I have more down-time, and my schedule is more flexible. I can have more than a 25 minute lunch, and restroom visits are plentiful. Doctor, dentist and other necessary appointments fill many summer days, as I try SO hard to avoid these during the school year. My beach reading selections are teaching-related. My vacations often center around trips to workshops, or educational destinations. My teenagers LOVE those, ha ha.

I work VERY hard during my summer, but those 10 weeks are certainly a welcomed respite from my non-stop-go-go-take-no-prisoners school year. Finding that Elusive Balance during the summer is easier, which hopefully makes up for the rest of the year! My vacation is wonderful, but certainly not the wide-open expanse of bon-bons and bonfires that some prefer to portray.

Let's just say, that I never chose my profession based on the time I spend away from it. I chose it because of the time I get to spend IN it.

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Judith Epcke's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Heather,

You echo my sentiments exactly when someone says something about having summers off. Usually I hear, "Oh must be nice being a teacher in the summer". My comment is usually, "It's great being a teacher in the summer and all year long. You too, could have chosen to be a teacher and as a matter of fact, you could still be a teacher. There is no lottery, no special contest to win, just a teaching certificate and lots of hard work"

That usually silences them.

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TaughtThemNot's picture

I've heard this argument before, but in all due respect to friends of mine who are full-time educators, I still think it's a flaw in our education system that teachers have three months of paid vacation time built in to their contracts.

I've worked as a teacher--just part time--and it is indeed EXHAUSTING. I think most people overlook that. It's also one of the few jobs that truly requires you to take your work home with you. It's emotionally training, challenging, and doing it right isn't easy. But the fact that teachers are "lifelong learners" or that they attend seminars doesn't change that. Journalists or doctors or engineers who are good at their job no doubt attend seminars voluntarily or read books to better themselves in the field without being directly paid for it. It's troubling, too, to hear dear friend of mine who are teachers complain about their "miserable" salaries of $50K or $60K a year, while I have just as much experience but work in a much less lucrative field that requires just as much education and consistently make a mere fraction of those amounts, all the while working from about 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on average, frequently including weekends and holidays. This is reality these days, folks. With that in mind, naturally it's also hard to sympathize with the sentiment that "we work ... because who doesn't need extra money?" Tons of professionals do freelance work in addition to their other job. But they're not doing it while still receiving a paycheck from their full-time employer unless they allotted personal days to their freelance work just for that purpose.

It was such a relief to meet a young educator who went out of his way to acknowledge that having summer off has been one of the sweetest benefits of his young career--receiving a paycheck while he drove cross country. I do not resent him for it. In fact, I envy him. At times I just wish more educators would own up to the reality that while his or her job may not be perfect for innumerable reasons, having 90 days + personal days to do what you want is a really, really nice benefit of the profession.

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RWM Librarian's picture

If it makes people feel better, they don't have to think of it as a paid summer off. Instead, think of it as a 10 and 1/2 month job whose payments are spread out over a year-long period (except where teachers don't get a paycheck in the summer--we don't always, you know). And let's be honest--we basically get a 10 and 1/2 month salary. When I calculate my part-time salary based on the 43 weeks a year for which I'm contracted, it comes out to about $24 an hour--on par with similar jobs requiring a Master's degree.

So, noone's getting overpaid here--our salaries are exactly right for the amount of time we're contracted. We are grossly underpaid, however, when one calculates the amount of work we do outside the classroom and beyond the school day (10-20 hours a week based on research).

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Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Manager

I don't think this is a game of who works harder. If you look at the labor statistics, everyone's working harder now-a-days, with a lot less downtime and vacations all around. The point, I think, is that this is true for teachers too, and that "summer vacations" aren't necessarily that.

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