In Defense of Summer Vacation
You're Off ALL Summer?
"Oh, that's right. You're only part-time."
A family member actually said this to me this weekend when we were discussing upcoming plans. It stung and it's something a lot of people think and sometimes say to teachers. As a teacher, nothing is more frustrating than hearing people talk down about how much time you "work" and give you a hard time about your time "off."
Unless you are a teacher, or you live with a teacher, you will never understand what goes into being a successful educator in a well run classroom. If anything, I'm hoping to open eyes to what "work" means to a teacher in defense of my profession.
I am contracted from 8-3:30 every day. Yes, it's not a typical 8 hour workday, but it is a full work day. I usually arrive to work an average of a half hour early just to get myself prepared for the day. As soon as the bell rings, it's game on. I teach six to seven 43 minute periods (depending on the day), have at least one planning period and have a 30 minute lunch.
On paper, it looks like I get a lot of free time during the day, however, much of my free time is spent giving students extra help, collaborating with other colleagues, grading essays, preparing lessons, etc. It's never "free" time, which is perfectly fine. At 3:30 though, my job is far from done. Having spent my entire day running around, I still need to make sure I'm caught up and ready for what's ahead. Every day must be meticulously planned, every assignment and activity standards driven and purposeful. Every assignment must be read and graded (including at times, 90 5+ page papers). Some days I stay late at work, other days I take my work home, where I spend my evenings and weekends catching up.
Even though I get holidays off during the school year, and still hear complaints, I think people can accept that I work hard, even if they think I have it "easy." So what about the entire summer off?
Any teacher can tell you, it is hardly a summer off, especially in times of complete upheaval in the education system like many of us are facing with the new Common Core. Not only am I reading texts to teach next year, planning units and lessons during the summer, I am now trying to develop my curriculum in conjunction with new standards.
In summers prior, I was preparing for next year while also taking graduate classes to fulfill the Master's degree requirement of the NYS professional teacher certification. Other teachers use the summer as time to fulfill their professional development requirements for NYS certification, many times without pay.
What Does It All Mean?
When it comes down to it, a person who is not in the field of education should not say anything to those who are teachers. Yes we get time off, but most of the time it is being used preparing for when we are at work (mind you, it is all done while we are not getting paid).
We all enter professions understanding what is required of us, so I am not complaining about all of the extras that come with my job. I knew going into it that I was going to be working beyond my set hours and it's perfectly fine with me. I also knew as a teacher, I would have time off for holidays and during the summer, on obvious perk of my career. But there isn't an effective educator who will tell you that summers off is what drives someone to teaching. If that's all you're getting into the job for, you will surely fail.
When it comes down to it, what is not OK with me is hearing from people all the time about how much time off I get and that I am a part time worker. If a person wants to try to make me feel bad about it or talk about how unfair it is compared to the work that he or she does, I suggest to them to get a Bachelor's degree, a Master's degree, take the NYS certification exams (yes, plural...at least 3 of them) and find a full time teaching job and then they can talk to me about how much time off I have. Until then, I won't comment about their jobs and what they "get" to do and the time they have off, and I hope they'll stop talking about mine.