Do teachers really get the summer off?

Teachers might only officially work 180 days a year, but does that mean the remainder of the year is "vacation"?

Do teachers really get the summer off?

That’s the common perception among non-teachers. Sure, I’m contracted to work 180 days a year, but does that really mean the balance of the year is “vacation,” or should it be labeled something else?

I reached out to fellow teaching colleagues on Facebook to ask them how they are spending their summer vacations. Their responses might surprise you.

Jessica in Dayton, Ohio is spending several days participating in Race to the Top workshops since her state qualified for the federal competitive grants. After that she’s teaching bullying workshops at a local university while coaching her cheerleading team in preparation for fall sports.

Mitizie in Hawaii is finishing her doctoral dissertation (which will not raise her salary) in addition to attending the Mickelson/Exxon Mobil Teachers Academy of Science in New Jersey for a week.

Brian in Sacramento is trying to wrap up a Master of Arts in Education. Mike in Elk Grove is participating in curriculum development to at Jackman Middle School to align curriculum in grades 6 through 8. He and his colleagues are rewriting unit tests to assess student learning. After that, he’s attending a one-week workshop on teaching writing to middle school students.

Haley in Arbuckle, California is taking a Spanish class paid for out of pocket to better meet her students’ needs. Sandra in Arlington, Texas is spending a week away from her family to show teachers of “at risk students” how to teach about our U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Karen from Modesto is heading north to Alaska to count salmon, then heading back to the California coast to teach teachers from Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties “tide pooling protocols” so their students study tide pools responsibly and thoroughly without damaging them. After that, she’ll be writing grants for her school to make up for the diminished funding being provided by our state.

So what are my plans for “vacation?”

I’ll spend a week in Washington, D.C., attending a week-long seminar on Representative Democracy in America. The mornings will be filled with lectures by Congressional scholars. The afternoons will consist of pedagogical workshops with mentors and master teachers from throughout the nation. While there, I will receive the American Civic Education Teacher Award and have a chance to spend two days touring our nation’s capitol—a reward for my civic education efforts with students and colleagues.

And then I have a lot of summer reading to work on: Ruth Culham’s new Traits of Writing: The Complete Guide for Middle School, five books on filmmaking with students, a book connecting Greek and Roman ideas on governance with what our American Founders knew, and a book on Congress and why it’s become so dysfunctional over the years.

Additionally, I have a new set of civic education textbooks I obtained that help students explore the themes of privacy, authority, responsibility, and justice. I need to read through the teacher’s manual, start planning activities, writing assessments.

There are a LOT more things I feel compelled to do, but I won’t ramble on any longer. And I won’t lie and tell you my summer is all work and no fun. My family will spend a week in Newport Beach and camp three days in Calaveras Big Trees. And I’ve been hitting the gym a lot lately.

Are you seeing a theme in all of this? Do teachers really get the whole summer off? I guess it depends who you ask. I guess it depends on what a teacher is passionate about.

For me, summer is a time of recharging, retooling, reflecting on what I did the previous school year. It’s a time to stop grading papers on a daily basis and start focusing daily on my family more. It’s a time to attend to all the home and curricular projects I was unable to complete during the school year because I was too busy working 12-16 hour days. Sure, school starts at 8:00am and ends at 2:30pm, but that doesn’t mean teachers stop working. We just stop working with kids, and start working on all the other things it takes to effectively teach kids.

Yes, teachers get weekends off. And we get a large section of summer off, too. But some of us work a lot more than anyone would ever imagine. If you’re reading this and you’re a teacher, do our profession and the general public a service:  tell us what you are doing or reading or planning or learning this summer that’s work-related. I would bet that a lot of teachers treat summer as that preparation time we never got during the school year.




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MattG June 28, 2011 at 06:08 AM
Great points Jim! Another misconception that I hear all the time (and mentioned by MaryBeth) is that unlike other professions we DON'T get PAID vacation. Our salaries are spread out for 12 months, but we only get paid for the 171 days (fulroughs) that we actually work. I can't tell you how many hours I've spent calling parents, grading papers, planning, studying, reading, setting up classrooms, etc. after my contract hours. As for MaryBeth's comments, I'd like to address a few. Jim is not making excuses for teachers, he's merely pointing out the many misconceptions the public has about teachers (highlighted by many of your comments). We DON'T have a projected job! I for one was pink slipped this year and I've been teacher for EIGHT years! There were 400+ teachers this year who received pink slips. When the state doesn't have money, they go after education. Don't forget that teachers have college degrees and many have Masters. We are paid as such, though as stated above, not enough. As for the teachers at Foulks Ranch, their test scores speak for themselves. They consistently score the highest in our district, if not state. Teachers are only paid for about 6 hours each day. If Foulks Ranch teachers get out at 2:30, you expect them to be there for 3 hours more than what they are getting paid for? In what other profession would you expect people to do 3 hours of extra work for free? Most teachers take work home. And by the way, teaching is a REAL JOB!
Alicia Pepler McCormick July 11, 2011 at 01:23 PM
Anyone who lives with a teacher will tell you that teachers NEVER stop working. Unlike many professions where employees walk out the door and leave their job behind, good teachers spend hours upon hours planning, correcting, grading, communicating with parents, working on committees, taking part in meeting after meeting and our work is never done. This summer I have been asked to read several books, take part in a week's worth of curriculum and assessment conferences and prepare for teaching a new subject next year in addition to Language Arts. Teachers, theoretically, have a "prep" period built into the school day, but anyone who works in education knows that "prep" periods are commandeered for team meetings, RTI meetings and PETs. I can't remember the last time I was actually able to USE my "prep" period just for... prep! Furthermore, because I work outside of the home during the school year, there are dozens of unattended to projects that always, inevitably, need to done during the summer. This summer, in addition to attending summer conferences, reading several professional books and preparing to teach a new subject, I am also staining my 60 x 42 log home! In-between I AM finding time to swim in our pool, BBQ, go camping and take a few minutes to relax. I have a Master's degree with 8 years experience and I earn less than $40K/year for teaching YOUR kids to read and write! But don't thank me! I've got such an EASY job because, after all, I have "SUMMERS OFF!"
Karen July 12, 2011 at 02:59 AM
You are all correct, what great replies and you've given me much to mull over. I have to object though, looking at the current pay schedule, most teachers make over 60,000 in the EGUSD. You can see the pay schedule here: http://www.egusd.k12.ca.us/employment/salary_schedules/EGEA10and17Step19and20.pdf Working it out on a per hour basis, it's not bad work. I realize many teachers work hard. But so many others of us do too, and don't get to go home at 3 pm if necessary. Or get three months and every bank holiday off. I currently get two weeks off a year (designated by my boss) and get a hard time from my children's teachers (basically told I'm a bad father) because it's during testing time (that's the only time I can get these vacations!). I just pull them out -- not because teachers are lazy and mean but because my family is more important than any test. The tests really aren't worth much anyway, as any really good teacher knows. They have nothing to do with my boys and everything to do with the schools state funding. Any parent can pull kids out of testing. Teachers so often forget this. We need to work together; it's not us vs them. It takes a village and EGUSD is one of the best around. Mr. Bentley is a **shining star** and if all teachers were like him then there wouldn't be a division Sadly it's the 'bad seeds' that make the news and shape opinions. Keep on keeping on! Karen
Jim Bentley August 08, 2011 at 08:55 PM
Karen, you raise some good points. Teaching is a good job, and I have a decent salary, too. It's declined over the past couple years due to budget cuts like many others. Like Alicia above points out, good teachers never stop working. I'm responding to this post while taking a break from planning for next week's instruction...and I'm currently "on vacation." I commiserate with having to schedule vacation per the time frame imposed by a boss. I've worked in the private sector as well, and I remember having to put in for a week here or there. I've often jokingly said I would rather go back to punching a time card and getting paid by the hour. If that were the case, I'd be making what I was worth. Sadly, a salary schedule does reward all teachers for their units earned and years served without discriminating. As in any profession, some will always work harder than others. I would echo Matt's sentiment and repeat that I am employed for 171 days. I don't necessarily get a lot of time off. I am employed for a little less than half a year. Would I like to work more days and make more money? Yes. I've watched my savings accounts dwindle as I took a 10% plus pay cut. My wife, also a teacher, has had her salary reduced as well. I love what I do for a living, and I wouldn't want to do anything else. But I am growing more and more frustrated with the lack of priority our state is affording education. Our children and teachers are paying the price.


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