Teachers, Stop Saying You Work All Summer

I know, I know. Some of you actually work. Some of you really do plan lessons, attend conferences, renovate your classrooms, teach summer school, or even work a part-time job. Some of you do all of the above.

But most of you don’t.

 I’ve been teaching seventeen years now. I know a LOT of teachers. Most of my friends are teachers. Hardly any of them work much in the summer. One teaches summer school for three days a week for about six weeks. Most of us do some planning for next year (“vaguely thinking about” would be more accurate). We might read a teaching book or two this summer (might I recommend Happy Teacher?). Almost all of us will, at some point before the year starts, head into our classrooms a few times to get everything in order. But most of us aren’t doing much work. Don’t believe me? Check out the Facebook pages of the teachers you know.

So can we please stop pretending? Can we stop lying?

Stop Being Defensive

I was on Facebook earlier today when I came across a video a friend had shared. You’ve probably seen it or one like it. It was about how teachers get no respect and how there’s a shortage in teacher prep programs. It listed some of the reasons teachers feel disrespected.

The first comment under the video trotted out the very tired, “Teachers have three months off” argument. Evidently, the commenter missed the part about teachers quitting and young people avoiding the profession. That would seem to argue that those three months off aren’t the incentive people think they are. The commenter was beset, of course, by teachers claiming, as they always do, that no, actually, we work those three months!  That’s not a vacation! We take classes and plan lessons and work other jobs because of our shitty pay. Reading them, you would think that most teachers are busting their asses all summer. We aren’t. I sure as hell am not.

And I won’t apologize to anyone for that.

Teachers Don’t Waste Time

I work hard during the school year. I work harder than a lot of people. I may not work the same number of hours as someone in another profession, but the hours I do work are not wasted. I’ve never participated in a Cyber Monday. I’m there the Monday after the Super Bowl, without a hangover, doing the same job I do every day. A 2014 survey from Salary.com found that 89% of workers admitted to wasting time at work. 31% waste 30 minutes a day. Another 31% waste an hour. 16% waste TWO HOURS each day. How are they wasting time? Well, Bitly found that traffic on Twitter peaks between 9 am and 3 pm, Monday through Thursday, and that Facebook spikes between 1 pm and 3 pm midweek. Those are curious times, aren’t they? It’s almost like people in cubicles are not really working that much. Usage drops off at 4 pm, when all those hard working business people go home.

Teachers don’t get to waste time. We don’t have the luxury of buying crap online while students are watching our every move. We can’t check Facebook six times a day to see how many people liked our cat photo from last night. We’re not getting into Twitter arguments at 2 pm. In fact, if you’re a teacher who tweets you know that educator chats always occur at night. #edchat runs from 7-8 pm on Tuesdays. #edtechchat from 8-9 pm on Mondays. #tlap is scheduled at Monday at 9 pm. When do Twitter chats for marketing professionals take place? #ContentChat is Monday at 3 pm. #BufferChat is at noon on Wednesdays. #BizHeroes is at 2 pm on Tuesdays. Must be nice to have tweeting considered “work.” If teachers waste time at school, it simply means we have more work to take home. Other professionals might work more hours than teachers, but that doesn’t mean they’re doing more work.

Stop Apologizing

Teachers, let’s just be honest: Summer vacation is perk. No one else apologizes for their work perks. Why should we?

I’ll start feeling bad for enjoying my three months off when business people start feeling bad about their hour-long leisurely lunches at restaurants (that some write off as business expenses), their corporate junkets to Aspen, free tickets to sporting events, paid air travel and hotel stays that allow them to see the country on their company’s dime, high salaries, the ability to take a week off in October to vacation during non-peak times, workdays that permit (even encourage) dicking off on social media, paid water cooler conversations about last night’s episode of “The Bachelor,” and lots of other perks I don’t get as a teacher.

 But since that’s not likely to happen anytime soon, I’ll just enjoy my three months off.
 Every glorious, sun-filled, relaxing day of it.

32 Replies to “Teachers, Stop Saying You Work All Summer”

  1. I look so forward to all of your emails. You consistently nail all of my reflections. I have been teaching for 33 +years, so it is refreshing to see a teacher not sugarcoat this profession. Thank you for your honesty and setting the record straight all of the time. Can’t wait for your next email!

  2. My response to this when someone tried to give me a hard time about having three months off is tell them it’s not an exclusive club, anyone can go back to school and get credentials. To which they usually reply that there is no way they could be “stuck” in a room with so many little kids at one time. So… there are trade offs. If you can’t do my job, then don’t complain about my schedule! I don’t make my schedule anyway!

    1. 3 months? In my district, summer begins 6/15 or so… and the first day back is 8/1. So, that’s about 6 weeks. Which really does give me just enough time to decompress from the year and then get back into planning, conferences, studying curriculum etc.

      1. Thats still 6 weeks…. Plus Christmas break, and a few days in November, and even a small spring break….point is, it could be worse. Just ask the many paramedics, firefighters, nurses and cops who dont get that luxury. They have to risk their lives, save lives and work about the same number of hours you do and get paid the same sometimes less. They have to deal with just as much beureaucratic red tape and bs you do. Their “students” are people who are often at their lowest points in life. I dont discredit the work teachers do, its appreciated. My sister is going to be one and I support her wholeheartedly. But Im getting tired of hearing about how bad teachers have it; especially the surburban ones. Those who live and teach in rough neighborhoods have more of my sympathies. However, as degrees get more and more obsolete, (Im getting my bachelors in C.J., and will get my masters at some point to teach in college after I retire) the whole “overqualified, underpaid thing” will be equal for quite a bit of people, so that shouldnt be a complaint either.

        1. Great point, Isaiah! We teachers do have it made. I have taught in tough, low-income, at-risk schools and cushy private schools. The cushy private school teachers (and public suburban teachers) are on a cloud for sure! It is SO easy compared to high poverty schools. I’ll take a helicopter parent any day overing being hit or cussed at. And I have NEVER worked during the summers. I chill, travel, eat, and then repeat the process until August hits! 🙂

      2. Thank you!!! They also keep shortening the summer, less planning days, early releases, etc. Maybe in the 3 months you have off you could stop bashing teachers and actually appreciate the break. The summer makes up for the extra hours, weekends, and holidays where I am WORKING!! Stop giving people more reasons to criticize teachers. There are good teachers and bad teachers. Every profession has them. Firefighters schedules are even better. maybe you should trade professions and complain about them instead.

      3. We have the same here not three months. And usually we are asked to voulenteer and come in over the summer to attend meeting that go over testing results, school improvement planning etc that are unpaid but you feel it’s your responsibility paid or not it’s about your data and children. Teachers hours are not 7 hours a day how could we get everything expected done in that time. I guess most of us feelnifbyou add up all the after hours time put in we don’t really get a free summer we have paid for it in advance. As a community we should all support each other and share ideas.

  3. While I absolutely agree with you (I work as little as possible on school stuff during the summer) I would like to qualify that teachers I know (myself included) do not have three months off in the summer. Not trying to split hairs but since your asking for honesty… My last day of school was June 21st, my first day back will be August 21st. Which gives a total of seven weeks off, not three months. Not complaining at all, I love having that time off to rest and live without the responsibilities of the school year. I’m not fond of either myth- the one that says that teachers work through summer vacation or the one that says we have three months off. Peace, keep up the good work.

    1. Agreed – my last day was June 9th and we have to report back to school August 8 for meetings and classroom set up before school starts back up on August 16th. And my first week “off” consisted of writing narrative reports for my 24 students (we don’t do the grade check off thing). And I’ve already attended one professional development conference and have another week-long workshop to attend in July.
      And I do spend time designing my lesson plans, organizing field trips, etc, during the summer. So, yeah. And I don’t apologize for having some very lazy days during the summer either.

    2. Let’s be sure to also address that we aren’t really on vacation, we’re essentially unemployed. My spouse gets paid vacation. If I want to be paid in the summer, I can have deductions taken out all year, but that’s not a paid vacation! I Love My Job. I wouldn’t do anything else, still 100% satisfied with my decision to become a teacher. And, yes I also love my summer off. My next group of students will benefit tremendously from my recharged self.

      1. In the case of an Ohio school teacher making $55K per year (Ohio average teacher pay), does it really matter that all those paychecks that add up to $55K are delivered during official “school year” pay periods?

        My cousin is 48 and makes north of $65K per year as a 7th grade teacher outside of Canton Ohio. Is it really that big of a deal that, again, all those paychecks are squeezed into official school year payperiods?

  4. Who actually gets three months off? My last day was June 9 and I am required to be back August 10. So, right away, lop off a month. Then – we are actually “laid off” during that time. We are not paid for the time off and we cannot collect unemployment because we have a job – our company is just “closed” for the summer. I agree, I don’t work 36 hours plus a week in the summer – but I do make myself plan for 2 hours a day (10 hours a week). So – 2 months off is a perk – it just isn’t the draw to teaching some may expect.

  5. Maybe you don’t … but I know a lot of teachers that do work in summer. A LOT.
    So, probably should’ve said somewhere you are not talking forcall teachers.

  6. Thanks for telling it like it is, with neither apology nor remorse. I never felt the need to apologize for having a summer break. Whenever family or non-teaching friends brought up what a luxury I had, I reminded them that at their 9 to 5 jobs they worked 40 hours per week for 50 weeks, a total of 2000 hours per year. If they earned wages rather than a salary they were paid overtime for their additional hours. I only worked 40 weeks a year but I put in far more than 50 hours per week.

    Yes, it is true that I did some work during the summer for school, and I took classes to earn additional degrees and certification, but those generally weren’t mandatory for keeping my job. I sometimes worked outside of education during the summer but again that was a choice not a requirement.

    For 38 years I was proud to be a professional educator. For many of those years I was the school principal. I had ball games, events, and board meetings to attend. I was visible in the building during the day, so much of the mundane pencil pushing paperwork was done outside of school hours.

    Teachers should embrace their summers off, not apologize for them.

  7. After those 38 years, I am now happily retired. I substitute teach some, but decline far more than I accept. Ironically, I work more on a weekends now than I did before, as a part-time hiking guide in the tourism industry.

  8. I do work in the summer so I LOVE the weeks when I’m truly off. It lets me read (some for school/some for pleasure) and do things that I enjoy. These activities often do overlap with less s because I love “doing” what I teach.

    I think each person does what they choose but there are many people who do work. I’m not apologising for either perspective but I’m not lying when I say I work.

  9. I love this article! I just finished my first year and have been feeling guilty that I am not doing a ton of work this summer because I keep seeing posts about how much all teachers do during the summer. I was wondering if I should be doing more. Your article validated the break I am taking. Summer break definitely is a perk! Thanks!

  10. I would like some of my colleagues to really take the summer off and stop texting me about school business that can be handled during work week.

  11. Most teachers, assuming a full-time teaching contract, perform, about 1,200 minutes of stand-up per week. In addition, they attempt to calm down the “he’s looking at me” hysterics, feed the children who come to schoool without breakfast, decide if two students are mature enough to leave the room for the (choose a destination) at the same time, move consistently from student to student to ensure that work is being done and that the students appear to comprehend the task (which includes reading and comprehension on the student’s part). Depending upon the age of students, some of entering or in early stages of puberty, which often means their decision-making skills and wisdom are still new.

    Sometimes a teacher needs a respite. That’s what parents get when their children are at school.

    the childre

    1. It’s NOT paid vacation. We are contractually paid for days we work, and those contracts include meetings, back to school nights, open houses, conferences, adjunct duties, etc. We are not paid during the summer nor are we paid during holidays.

  12. I have about 7 weeks off in the summer and that is one of the reasons I enjoy teaching. As a parent, I enjoy having that time with my kid. I don’t get paid in the summer (10 month employee) but I think a lot of folks not in the profession think teachers do. And splitting your 10 paychecks up into 12 payments is not working for free. I average about 160 students a year on an A/B block schedule and by May, I am ready for summer break. I do, however, put in as many hours, if not more, than other professions in a week. I get paid a salary, not by the hour and I love my job…on most days 😉

  13. I think the basic foundation of your point is clear, but your tone seems to be just as defensive as the teachers you complain about–you seem down right mad that teachers are exasperated by frequent misunderstanding surrounding the profession. Given the recent bout of teacher strikes, it makes sense that teachers feel like they have to defend all of the “perks” that are thrown back at them when they ask for more resources, smaller class sizes, and higher pay. Here’s how I prefer to non-defensively explain it to my non-teaching friends (and I’ve been told it’s been helpful):

    “Imagine working 6/7 day weeks for 10 months and then you got all of your weekends at once during the summer. I see summer break as a collection of my missing weekends during the school year and After 15 years teaching, at this point I can get away without working on Saturday, but I work every Sunday like clockwork, prepping for the week, grading papers, etc. The way I see it, with winter break and spring break I get 3 weeks of vacation (like most of my non-teacher friends), and a summer of missing weekends.”

    Like several posts here, I’m a teacher and I have no desire to apologize for my summer off, but I’m always puzzled by the 3 month claim. I finish on June 15 and start up again August 15. I have one 2-week teacher program in July and the rest is my vacation. Even if I didn’t have that program, June 15 to August 15 is NOT 3 months.

    1. Monique, I think the point is, compared to many other professions that require four-year degrees, teachers get A LOT of time off. That’s one of the reasons why quite a few women switch careers when they have kids, “to spend more time with the kids during the summer”. Teaching isn’t perfect, BUT the schedule is amazing. After about 4 years of teaching, I made a conscious effort to leave work at work. I stopped grading at home, responding to emails after a certain hour, etc. And you know what? Teacher life continued because the inbox will never be empty. Now, when I got into admin., that was a different story. But overall, educators have a sweet schedule. Anything that I’ve ever done in the summer related to my teaching choice was by choice.

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