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5 Reasons Summer Break Is Overrated for Teachers

Meghan Mathis

5 Reasons Summer Is Overrated for TeachersMy 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 a.m. on the first Monday of summer break 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 break. 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 …

The Weather During Summer Break

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! 

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In other professions, you have the choice of when you will vacation. For teachers, that choice is made for us.

The Wasted Time

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.

The Second Jobs

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.

The Whining

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 Brain Dump

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. 

Where do you weigh in on this summer break debate? Share with us! Leave your replies in the comments section, below.

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Cheryl Leckie's picture

It is not 3 months. Teaching and working until mid June then inservice and sometimes classes starting before Labor Day does not add up to 3 months. Not to mention that classes for teachers sometimes start the week before school gets out in June (for those who need to take summer classes). Don't forget you are finished for summer about 3 weeks after most colleges are done for summer. Most summer jobs have already been snapped up making it difficult for any teacher who may need to boost their yearly income - single parent with one or more child in college - have a family member with on going medical needs (just a few examples why more income may be needed).

Carol Gordon Ekster's picture

No, it isn't a trip to the beach, but it is so greatly needed! And as an elementary school teacher I was back in my classroom on the first not-so-perfect weather day to set up the room as of August 1st. There is an amazing amount to get ready when you have to decorate the room and teach every subject. And if there was a new curriculum added, I spent July starting to plan it. I could never have waited to add that load to the school year.

Myree's picture

I love this.. I wrote something similar- what my students think we do all
I too love how people say we are lucky- my response is usually, "oh yea, it is great to have 8-10 weeks of NO pay unless I go out and get another job." You take time off and still get paid for it- as you stated, our "vacation" time is selected for us but we are not paid for it- unless of course you have a system set up where a portion of your pay is held for summer months, but still it is not pay you received.
If you are a first year teacher OR if you have been transferred to another school or grade level, there is SO much to do (pack up, move, and unpack! Working around maintenance and office staff schedule can also be challenging. We were not allowed in the building the whole month of July which meant extra time in August preparing.
I also tutor over the summer. So, education is a full year position for me.

We could go on and on- bottom line though I chose this profession- the good and the bad- and I would NOT trade it for anything..

C's picture

We only have 7 weeks, and I'll tell you the time off is usally winding down the first two weeks and then having an actual two weeks of solid no thinking of school, to then having 3 weeks of actual organizing and planning for the upcoming year! I have seen parents at the end of summer holiday and they are wiped! Think how we feel when we are actually trying to get them to produce meaningful work for 10 months of the Year!!!!

Lisa Mims's picture

I agree, it can be overrated! Diary of a Public School Teacher "And I'm Off...(Summer "Vacation?")We work so hard during the school year and during our "break."

Guest's picture

Am I the only one who thinks summer vacation is an amazing time to relax, recharge, and learn from wonderful experiences? While I agree that I don't enjoy people complaining about how easy it is to be a teacher, I do thoroughly enjoy this much needed perk -- and it is not over rated! On the other hand, those who wish they could have summers off should realize most also do not get paid for the really, if you wanted to go for 2 months without pay to go on a vacation, you might be able to arrange it.

Sara Stack's picture

I'm in love with the 45/15 calendar or other year round options. I think teaching requires rejuvination breaks throughout the year and kids need processing time. Providing Targeted Services or "summer school" during the interims prevents regression to those students who need an extra boost!

Brooke's picture

I agree with the "guest". This is the time to destress. I love my summer break. Laying in the pool, riding my motorcycle, and sleeping in. Then again I'm 30 with no kids and no husband it's easier for me as long as I budget my earnings through the year. It is also a time where I've been able to get caught up with doctor appointments, get my masters degree finished, and do some soul searching of my own. I think that I would honestly rethink being a teacher if there wasn't a break. I believe the burn out rate would be tremendously higher and honestly the appreciation of a teacher would diminish as well....

Terry P.'s picture

I was a teacher, and decided to get a professional degree not because I hated teaching, so I think I can be somewhat objective. I think this article is written just a tad too defensively. It's like when I say I don't enjoy synchronized diving in the Olympics. The defensive ones always say, "well, let's see you do it." Hello? I just said I don't enjoy it. I didn't say it required no talent. Chill...relax. And this is what I'd tell Meghan. Yes, you can say "well you be a teacher." Then again, you can also just admit that having summers and many holidays off is a good perk, much better than most other jobs. Period. It doesn't mean your job is easy, it doesn't mean your job is not valuable. When you tell others they just get a job as a teacher, you have left yourself wide, wide open for them to tell you, "well if you don't like cleaning up vomit, then get another job if you think teaching is so difficult." So just relax. Teaching is a difficult job. You deal with parents. do family doctors and pediatricians and coaches. Teaching is a good profession. It has a great, unique perk - many holidays and summers off. Great. The best response to "you're so lucky you have summers off," is not "well then you become a teacher." That makes you look immature and defensive, not to mention extraordinarily insecure. It's best to say, "yea, I know, I'm so glad I earned such an honorable and meaningful job that also has such a nice perk. Enjoy the office on this 100 degree day, I'm going to the pool. Seeya!" You would look sooo much better that way.

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