Disclaimer: I want to clarify that the following opinions and experiences are mine and mine alone. Teachers are not all created equal nor do we have equal job or life responsibilities. So if you are a teacher, please take the following tongue-in-cheek. Relate to the shared experiences. For those opinions and experiences that don’t match with yours, feel free to say that the Caffeinated Ginger simply does not know what she is talking about. I can take it. We gingers were born with thick skin.
There is always lots of discussion about the biggest job perk of teachers: Summer Break. Now before you yell, “I KNEW it! They are only it for the three months of sleeping late and wasting numerous hours on the Internet and Netflix!,” let me tell you that the main reason I became a teacher is because I enjoy working with kids (most of the time) and I believe that teaching is a God-given talent that was bestowed upon me (most days). However, having summers off was also one of the reasons I went into the profession–not because I wanted several weeks to “do what I want,” but because my duties as a mom come before my duties of a teacher and I wanted to be able to be home with my own kids when they were not in school.
I will admit that once 3:25 p.m. hits on that last required work day of the school year, I am OUT of there–don’t block my exit because you are likely to be run over. In fact, on the last day of this school year, a huge thunderstorm hit right at quitting time. Torrential downpour! Lightning! Thunder! Most sane people would have waited the storm out before leaving the building. However, “sane” is not a word used to normally describe me, so I put a shopping bag on my head and a garbage bag over my stuff I was taking home with me and headed out into the storm.
I have no shame.
The first few weeks of summer break, “school” is not a word that is allowed to be uttered in my presence by my family. They know that saying the “s-word” can cause instantaneous death–or at least a dirty look from me. My lanyard with my classroom keys is put deep into a drawer. I do nothing school-wise. No searching on Pinterest for classroom decorating ideas, no spending hours on Teachers Pay Teachers trying to find fun learning activities for my students, no reading education-related books. No, no, no.
During those initial weeks, that’s when I get started on my “List.” The List is posted on my refrigerator and contains those “to-do” things around the house that I don’t have time to get to during the school year. Lots of home improvement projects, some craft projects, errands, dental and doctor appointments, etc. This summer’s list contained lots of painting. Lots and lots of painting. I am painting a large portion of the interior of my house and I. am. sick. of. it. Ugh. Seriously–I could just throttle whoever put THAT on The List. Oh, that was me. Nevermind.
I also do some decompressing such as lunching with friends, reading some of that stack of library books that has been growing, going to the lake, and yes, spending some time surfing the Web and watching mind-numbing shows and movies on Netflix.
Then July 4 hits.
July 4 is the half-way point of summer break. July 4 is the summit, the pinnacle, the apex. After that, it is a very quick downward slide, or avalanche if you will, and the next five weeks or so seem to go by at lightning-speed until once again, the new school year begins.
Contrary to popular belief to those outside the academic world, even though I am not contracted to report back to work until August 11, that does not mean that I don’t start working on the new school year until then. That would be suicide. Just this morning I spent time on the working on classroom decorations that will make my classroom an inviting place for my students.
I am a Title I reading teacher and my job is to work with those students who are below grade-level in their reading skills. We do diagnostic testing at the end of every school year to find out what each student needs to work on, so I already know what students I will be working with next school year as well as exactly what skills they are lacking. That means that my mind is already starting to formulate and construct new lesson ideas to help make my students successful readers.
To keep my teaching license and also to move up on the salary schedule, I am required to take graduate level college courses. Next week I will be in the role of student instead of teacher as I take a class (at my own expense) to (hopefully) learn to be a better educator. I am excited about it because of the possibility of learning new ideas to implement in my classroom and also because I am taking the class with a teacher friend of mine and we are already planning what restaurants to eat at during our lunch breaks. Learning burns calories, you know?
Around the end of July, I will dig those classroom keys out of the dark recesses of the drawer and head back to my classroom. At the end of each school year, we are required to dismantle our classrooms–bulletin board displays come down, chairs and desks are stacked into a corner, computers are unplugged and covered with garbage bags to keep out dust, and everything that is on the floor (area rugs, boxes, etc.) have to be put up on the tables. Of course what has been dismantled has to all be put back together, so I will reposition everything in the classroom, start redecorating, and getting ready for the beginning-of-the-year open house and reading workshop that I present for parents.
I am fortunate that I don’t have to work another job during the summer. Several teachers take a second job during the summer (and even during the school year) to make ends meet. There are also teachers who teach summer school so their summer break is significantly shorter than mine.
And you know that paycheck I get during the summer? I am not getting paid for my time off. I am salaried and my district is helpful enough to divide that salary in 12 equal monthly payments instead of paying me in 9 payments and making me forage for nuts and berries during the summer.
As you can see, the “three months off” is a myth. Do I have extra time during the summer? Yes. But also do I often put in over 40 hours a week during the school year? Yes. Do I often bring work home with me? Yes. Do I often suffer insomnia because I’m thinking about how to better reach and teach my students? YES.
I will not lie that I enjoy having my summer “off,” even though it is not completely school-free. However, once August comes, I am ready to go back. I miss my students, my colleagues, the routine, and getting goosebumps when I am a part of kids experiencing success. That’s why I’m a teacher.