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Do Teachers Get to Take Summers Off?

I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.

Teaching Is Not Your Average Job

"It must be nice to have your summers off," someone said to me the other day.

When I was a kid, I had no idea that my teachers worked over the summer. Once in a while, I might see them in a store over the summer, and it was almost like seeing a unicorn. It felt as though they were oddly out of place, coming out into the "real world" outside my classroom. My mother would remind me to stop staring at my teacher and go say hi, or something, but I remember always being quite shocked that they would be out doing what "normal" people did. I suppose I just assumed they'd be holed up in their houses, embracing their air conditioning, or whatever. Never did I once think that they worked during the summer!

Now that I've been a part of the profession for a number of years, I can safely say that while we do try and carve out some time for ourselves over the summer, there is a substantial amount of work going on that is very much school-related. Sure, it does not look like the same sort of work you'd see during the year - we typically aren't in classrooms - but there's still a lot that teachers are doing over the summer.

We are expected to regularly engage in professional development opportunities. That could mean we take an online course or two to add to our qualifications. I know of at least two teachers that are taking additional qualifications courses over the summer. We might attend a couple of sessions about how to better help students who are disengaged. There is, in fact, a "Bridges Out Of Poverty" session in August that I've had my eye on provided by my own board. We might be taking any one of a number of certifications in order to better help our students learn and grow.

We're trying to get organized again. Whether it's trying to put things back in some semblance of order after leaving things in loosely organized piles to grab as we run to and from classrooms, meetings, or various events that we're helping with, or we're just trying to get our heads wrapped around new teaching schedules for the new school year, organization becomes a key component of trying to do what we do well.

We're planning for various events in the new school year. There are many things that occur in any given school year that require months of lead time; whether we're talking guest speakers, making sure that permits are booked for school dances and events, or that everything is scheduled for the cross country meets that start right away in the fall, teaching just isn't only about what happens in the classroom. We're responsible for ensuring that everything is in order well ahead of time in order that whatever events are scheduled can still go ahead.

Our jobs don't necessarily end at 2:30 or 3:30 - whenever school lets out for your children. We coach. We take kids on field trips - sometimes overnight. We work with kids to ensure that they're understanding the material that they've been struggling with. We have duties that involve supervising students to ensure they are safe at all times. This is why we sometimes can go a full day and realize when our stomachs are growling that we forgot about lunch because we didn't have time to worry about it earlier.

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This all occurs over the course of 10 months, not 12 as many jobs do.

Also, there are many teachers who by necessity will work a second job over the summer. For many teachers, that job will be teaching summer school. For others, it might be designing a new course for another agency. Regardless, education is just not a regular 9 to 5 gig that starts in September and ends in late June.

This is not to say that all teachers are just slaving away throughout the summer just to prepare for the new school year. That's not the case. However, to say that we have "summers off" is inaccurate.

So, during the summer, remember: the next time you might see a teacher in a coffee shop with his or her laptop on the table, he or she is probably not just playing a game or watching a movie while enjoying a cup of brew.


Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 01, 2018:

One of our neighbors is an assistant principal and she has very little time off during the summers due to obligations related to her job. She returns to her job full time in late July while the students will not start until later in August. Being a public school teacher is a demanding job!

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on July 01, 2018:

OH, your article speaks the truth! I taught high school Spanish for three years. The homework for me every night was enough for me to know that the summer wasn't worth it. And then there were all the hours of training to get in the summer, and the planning for the fall. Perhaps teachers who have taught many years learn how to streamline things and make more times for themselves, but I couldn't. I got a Master's in English after that and started teaching college classes. Although I'm still busy with that teaching, I didn't have to deal with the ongoing training as much, the parents (not at all), and everything that went into public school teaching. I usually didn't get home from schooldays until 4 or 5 or sometimes 7 o'clock and then still had my prep work for the next day. Teaching college is hard enough, but I respect and admire any teacher who sticks with public school teaching for the long haul.

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