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.