Summer Break: One Teacher's Reality Episode
Take A Guess
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Is there a Plan?
Armed with a sharpie, masking tape, and scissors, I knelt down to sort and store my entire year of teaching supplies into a dozen assorted odd shaped cardboard boxes. I had barely started when I heard a gentle knock at the door. Tara, who was stationed across the hall, stood in the doorway munching on a shiny red apple.
"You have a jump on me, Teach. I'm thinking I may just toss everything in bins next week and wait till fall to sort things out. I am so ready for Summer Break! I don't want to spend another minute past 3:05 in school next Friday. It can all wait. Say, what are you doing for Summer Break? Any Plans?"
Summer Break. Now there is a certain image those words project as they float in the air towards a teacher's ears. One pictures herself running through ocean surf, feeding seagulls, walking on white sand collecting seashells while listening to Caribbean music playing in the background.
I shake my head and answer, "Haven't had time to really think about it." As a matter of courtesy, I ask her in return. "What about you?"
"Well, you remember my friend Courtney? Yeah, she and I are planning on taking a trip to Bermuda for a few weeks. You know, catch some sun and fun."
I was a bit envious but happy that one of us was going to actually have a summer break. "Well, keep me updated on facebook. Have fun!"
She walked back across the hall. I returned to labeling boxes. Somewhere in the background I heard the gentle sound of waves hitting the shore as I shoved containers into cabinets.
Suggested Summer ExcursionsClick thumbnail to view full-size
What Teachers Should Not Do
Many of us will work this summer in public places. We are known to cause some minor havoc as we communicate with others. Here's some things I suggest you keep in mind:
- Resist the urge to whip out your red pen and grade any memos given to you in the office.
- It is not necessary for people to line up in an orderly fashion at the buffet.
- Avoid saying, "Use your inside voice" when dealing with irate customers.
- When making a presentation at work, adding a true and false quiz at the end is frowned upon (unless you have prizes, then everyone will get into it -- ask them to raise their hand in response!).
- The temptation to organize is strong when around others not so inclined, walk away!
- And lastly, you do not have to sing those catchy little songs while washing your hands.
What Others Do
The idea of a perfect vacation is not working or not having to work and having no appointments.
—Tom Welling, actor
The ideal summer break would be to do whatever it is you wanted to do, not having to worry about spending money, not having to cut your vacation time, and to have those you love by your side.
When money is no object and time is plenty, the door is wide open for adventure. Those who are fortunate enough to be in this category live our dream vacations for us. I can't imagine the thrill of renting a yacht to cruise the coastline for a week or setting out for some remote part of the world to photograph an endangered species. Wait. Yes, I can imagine the thrill!
While dining out one evening with friends, I overheard a couple discussing vacation plans in the booth next to ours. They were in disagreement about whether to take along a nanny for the children or to sign them up for extensive summer camp experiences. Mind you, one of the camps involved sail-boating in Maine for seven weeks. And, it was only $10 grand for the entire session!
Don't get me wrong, I think it's all wonderful when people get to enjoy their well earned money in this fashion. Why not? If I could, I would probably get away every summer to some remote island where I could spend my day sitting on the beach watching the waves roll in until sunset.
By the way, I checked my facebook page the week after school was out for updates. The first photo was Tara standing on a beach looking bronze and gorgeous in a white bikini. She was holding a huge conch shell in her hand against the blue of the ocean. Her post read "wish you were here." ...Me too.
The Reality Of It AllClick thumbnail to view full-size
What Is Your Perception Of It All?
“Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.” ― Irving Berlin
What Most Teachers Do
Here is the real deal. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average teacher makes between 37,000 and 51,500 annually. Many hold two jobs simultaneously during the school year and work additional jobs while on summer break.
Although this salary seems adequate, in truth the pay barely covers basic household expenses. The typical teacher has a family to feed and clothe, medical expenses, loans (some are paying student loans as well), cars to maintain and unexpected emergencies. Let's face it, people are facing new variables in today's economy forcing countless individuals and families to pay more for less.
Due to cuts in budget, most teachers have not had a raise within the past three years. The cost of living has risen and in order to pay the bills, educators are forced to work year round. Usually, this requires jobs outside the realm of education. The good side is that they are acquiring other valuable skills and knowledge keeping them employable.
I remember how surprised I was one summer to see my junior high math teacher painting the house next door. My mother informed me he did this every year. He had to work summers to keep his family fed. Then there was the time I found out my music teacher gave individual piano lessons on the side.
The occupation is rewarding. The truth is, teachers of excellence do not work entirely for the pay, it is a passion. My motto: And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching (Book of Titus, 2:7). So maybe we have to work outside our domain some months, we survive.
The chart below lists summer employment opportunities common to educators.
Summer Employment Opportunities
Temporary Business position
Sell products (i.e., Avon, Mary Kay)
Park & Recreations
Give private lessons such as swimming or music
Factory or retail job
The World I Live
Take A Vacation Break
My Personal Reality
In the past, I worked as an adjunct professor all summer. It required my balancing personal time within a split work schedule. It took some rearranging, but I managed to get the housework done, run errands, grade papers and do lesson plans, volunteer at church, and still spent a few hours with my husband and family. It was arduous but I made it through without any major breakdowns.
This year I plan to spend the majority of my time writing a book. I am taking a leap of faith in not supplementing our income. My plan is to work around a schedule of writing and managing the household. My husband is supportive of me and realizes it may require my working odd and long hours. Am I living a fantasy or is my reality merely a perception of a dream?
This morning I received a small brown package in the mail. It was from Tara. I tore away the wrapping and found some seashells and a small bottle of white sand tucked within crumpled tissue paper. A blue ribbon tied at the top embraced two exquisite silver seashell earrings and a small card. It read "take a break on me".
I laughed out loud. I thought: what the heck, why not? I went out back, sprinkled the sand and seashells around my lounge chair, put my earrings on and cranked up the music. I spent the next couple of hours sipping iced tea and pretending I was at the beach. That night as I lay in bed I thought I heard the gentle lapping of water and seagulls crying overhead. Reality, it's all good.
© 2014 Dianna Mendez