The #1 response I get when I tell people I am a teacher is, “It must be nice. You get your summers off.”
And that is from polite people.
Less socially tactful people (like my grandpa) tend to lean more toward this response: “It must be nice to work only 9 months of the year.”
After 10 years in the biz, I now just reply with “yup.” or when I am feeling sassy with “that would be nice!”
But it used to make me hopping mad.
Contrary to what many people think, I do not get to just sit on a beach sipping a mimosa with a good book all summer.
There is work to be done.
Ok, technically the summer is not contracted time. My administrators cannot make me do anything work-related.
However, if I want to keep my job…or do it well the other 9 months of the year…stuff has to get done during the summer.
The number one thing teachers do in the summer is continue their education and attend professional development.
In the state of Michigan, in order to keep a teaching certificate, a teacher needs to accumulate a certain number of credits (paid out of pocket) in a set number of years.
It’s possible to take these during the school year, but with all the other responsibilities going on, it’s easier on the schedule to do it in the summer.
When we are not taking classes, we are doing professional development (ok, really, some people are doing both). Professional development can include classes, meetings, trainings, etc. Most are not required (unless they are paid), but are very much encouraged. For instance, this summer I have three days of professional development to do in order to learn about the new Common Core Standards affecting my content areas (English and Spanish) and how to include them in my lessons and implement them.
Besides the three days in meetings, I will have to work on lesson plans with these new standards.
On top of all that, our district is restructuring our secondary grade level buildings this summer. This means that I am being moved to the building that will now be the 10-12 high school building. You can imagine the hours I will have to put in packing up a decade’s worth of classroom stuff, moving it, and reorganizing so that my new classroom is ready to go for the fall.
While most teachers are not moving into new buildings during the summer, they are restructuring and reorganizing their own classroom and lessons.
At the end of a school year, our classroom just isn’t ready for fall.
During a normal summer, I put in at LEAST two 40-hour weeks just working on my classroom, lessons, and new year prep.
Ok, so if you take out the two weeks for prep, a week of professional development (PD), and a couple more weeks of implementing what I gleaned from the PD, AND if I am taking classes, I am down to about a month off.
Maybe three weeks.
Still pretty awesome.
Many, MANY teachers need to supplement their income.
It may come as a newsflash to many of you, but teachers in this country get paid squat.
There is NO WAY many of us can afford to sit around all summer. Unless we have a partner who makes enough, loads of teachers have some sort of extra job they do during the summer.
Some tutor, some teach summer school, some work for camps, and some teach adjunct classes during summer sessions for local colleges.
I try to pick up a few writing gigs during each summer to supplement my income just a tad.
The big joke when I was growing up was that half the male teachers in my high school painted houses or installed underground sprinkling during the summers.
Now that I am a teacher, it’s not much of a joke.
I realize it’s a necessity.
We do get “time off,” but it doesn’t mean we are riding around in our convertibles in our bikinis.
It means we are preparing ourselves for another school year — and getting a bit of rest from the every day crazy that is teaching other people’s kids.