Teachers Definitely Get Summers Off. And That’s OK.

2890301351_658c87da1f_mAs my long, leisurely summer vacation was coming to an end, I came home to a bunch of claims that teachers do not really get long, leisurely summer vacations. For example, here’s high school teacher Brittany Clark:

Every educator has listened to a non-teaching friend lament the fact that they don’t get the summers off; but the thing is, most teachers don’t actually know what a summer off looks like…

Many teachers stay and teach summer school or provide new coursework for students who want to get a headstart on the next year. And this is just the beginning…

There is of course a week planned for my family vacation, but beyond that I have teaching-related training or professional development plans at least one out of every five days, and often more. I truly believe that I am not the exception, but the norm….

We plan months in advance for lessons that we will not teach until November. Along with these plans, we create study guides, assessments, projects, and activities.

So yes, students and teachers both look forward to summer. But teachers actually work tirelessly all summer long to make sure there is a great school year ahead. A teacher’s job never ends.

And here’s middle school teacher Katelyn Stukenburg:

Ask any teacher why they teach and you won’t likely hear about summer vacation. This myth of teachers joining the profession to take advantage of summer vacations is in fact only that: a myth. Teachers don’t come to the profession just to spend summer months basking in the sun and sleeping in. In all honesty, that’s just not who we are. Although we may be stepping out of the classroom, our minds never really get to go on vacation. Our hearts are tied to our classrooms in a yearlong commitment to becoming better educators for our students and to improve the education system they depend on.

I’m happy to go on record as saying that taking advantage of summer vacations is a major perk of the profession for me. I do have a summer teaching job for a few weeks every July, but it’s extremely low-stress and I still have lots and lots of leisure time. I definitely do not “work tirelessly all summer long” for the upcoming school year, nor do most of the other teachers I know.

If I were to attempt to generalize from my personal experience, I would say that most teachers – like most professionals – do a little work during their vacations, but far less than they do during the rest of the year.

teacher summersWe’re not limited to anecdotes, however. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has studied teacher workloads and found that over the summer months many teachers report not working. Looking at July in particular, fully half of teachers say they didn’t work at all – let alone “tirelessly” – during the previous week.

And keep in mind that these are professionals who, even during the school year, work a little less than their peers in other sectors.

Of course, averages can mask a lot of variation and I’m sure there are some teachers who spend large fractions of their summer “vacation” time prepping, planning, and participating in professional development.

They are not, however, typical. Most of us do not work all that hard over the summer.

And that’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Teachers in the United States are paid relatively little compared to other similarly-educated workers, and substantial vacation time is a way for the education sector to make up that compensation gap when recruiting workers.

I understand the defensiveness many teachers feel when it comes to summer vacation, but there’s really nothing for us to be ashamed about. And there’s certainly no need to rely on unfair and counterproductive stereotypes about the amount of work “real” teachers should be expected to do.

If teachers want to work over the summer, more power to them. The point of vacation time is precisely that you can use it to do whatever you want. But until the haters start offering realistic plans to replace vacation time with proportional salary increases, remember that there’s no shame in using your time off to do nothing at all.

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One Comment

  1. Posted July 11, 2014 at 2:53 PM | Permalink

    This is a refreshing post. I’ve met professionals who use their summers off for just leisure. As someone who is considering teaching in a good state, I find it very confusing and discouraging when people say that teachers are overworked and don’t get the benefits “advertised.”

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