By Teachers, For Teachers
My older brother has a tradition. When I began my first teaching job over six years ago, my brother made sure to call me at around 6:00 a.m. on the first Monday of summer vacation to complain about how unfair it is that I am able to sleep in, while the rest of the world trots off to work. Usually, I grumble back at him, and tell him that he is free to quit his job and become a teacher anytime he wants. Then I hang up on him.
This year, I found myself lying in bed pondering the pros and cons of summer vacation. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to love about a ten-week (or so) break from your job, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized there are also reasons why many teachers think summer break is overrated…
It may seem like I’m nit-picking here, but the weather is definitely something that takes away from enjoying your vacation. Prefer ski vacations? Too bad. Would you rather take a long-weekend to check out the fall foliage? Not during the school year!
In other professions, you have the choice of when you will vacation. For teachers, that choice is made for us.
Although it doesn’t occur to many people outside the world of education, summer vacation for many of us means a second job. Many teachers don’t get a “break” from school at all, because they go right back into the classroom for summer-school and tutoring jobs. Other educators become waiters, clerks in department stores, or work outside doing painting or landscaping.
Summer vacation sounds like a dream to people in other professions…until they consider whether or not they’d like spending ten weeks a year asking someone whether or not they want fries with that.
This one may get me in trouble, but I have to mention it. I would gladly give up summer vacation if it meant I never had to hear someone complain to me about how lucky I am to have it, and how I really don’t have the right to complain about any aspect of my profession because I "get summers off.”
I have had conversations with people who have stated with absolute sincerity that they would never want my job – they couldn’t handle the kids, the parents, the pressure of state assessments, etc., only to turn around and tell me that I shouldn’t complain because I “didn’t have to work” during the summer. I have never heard a teacher tell someone who works in an office not to complain about their job because they never have to clean up vomit, settle an argument over who wiped a boogie on whom, or time their trips to the restroom to one 30-minute break or hold it for the rest of the day…but maybe we should start?
The end of May and June is a frustrating time in a classroom. Often, grades are due several weeks before the end of the year and, with standardized tests over and done with, there is a “down-time” where teachers find themselves trying to fill the space with meaningful activities that they know won’t be graded. Students’ brains wander and making time in the classroom worthwhile often takes a Herculean effort.
A similar thing happens at the start of the school year, when the first few weeks are spent getting everybody back into the swing of school. Summer can be wonderful, but those last weeks before the school year ends and the first couple weeks of the next year are certainly a down-side.
Most students turn their brains off during the summer. Everyone knows it, but only educators really appreciate how much of our (and our students’) hard work seems to melt away during those summer months.
We spend the first months of the school year re-teaching things that our students had mastered by the end their last year, but forgot over the summer. Is it nice to have several weeks in a row to spend as we wish? Sure, but as a teacher I’d rather not have to take so much time at the start of each school year reminding students that their brains do work for something other than video games and swimming in the pool!
Summer vacation is a great perk, no doubt about it. But like so many other jobs and so many other perks…it isn’t all just a trip to the beach.