Most schools have finished the school year. It is around this time that people start to become envious of teachers and their “summer vacations.”
“It must be nice. Getting all that time off and still getting paid.” I have heard this comment or something similar to it many times over the course of my career. And you know what, it is “nice.” I’m not going to lie and say that the few weeks we get away from students a year isn’t a perk. I know most professions don’t offer that much time away from their primary duties. However, many people contort this in their minds to be some kind of “paid vacation” and that is just not accurate.
Here are facts people need to understand about the “breaks” we get during the year.
- Just because kids aren’t there doesn’t mean we aren’t.
One of the biggest misconceptions about the summer break narrative is that teachers get out when the kids do. This is virtually never the case. Every year I have been a teacher our school year lasted longer than theirs. Not only did we go a week or two after they left, but our school year starts a couple weeks before they get back. And just for the record, this is true for many of the other days-off too. A day off for them isn’t necessarily a day off for us.
- We don’t necessarily get paid over the summer break.
Teachers are paid for the time they spend in front of kids, and districts have different ways of handling summer break. Some districts stretch the salary out over the year. Some districts actually don’t pay teachers over the summer. But the important fact to note is that even the teachers who get paid OVER the summer are not getting paid FOR the summer.
This is apparent when teachers change jobs: If I apply for a new teaching job and get hired tomorrow, they aren’t going to start paying me until August.
- Teachers are actually still underpaid.
Even accounting for time off, teachers are still underpaid relative to the education level they are required to have. Most teachers have to obtain at least a bachelor’s degree and many have a master’s degree. But it is not at all uncommon for teachers to make less than the manager of a fast-food restaurant, which is okay every job matters … but its not exactly an incentive to go out and spend thousand of dollars to acquire the skills necessary to teach our youth either. (Which is probably why we have a teacher shortage.)
- We are usually still working.
During the school year the work doesn’t stop when the kids leave the classroom. We are grading papers, and planning lessons. The same is true over the summer. This is the time where the school expects us to plan units and lessons for the next school year. Depending on your school district, they may even mandate that. However, every good teacher does it anyway. Additionally, many of us are teaching summer school. If you are a teacher in one of those low paying states you might actually HAVE to work over the summer to make ends meet.
- The breaks make up for lack of flexibility during the school year.
Almost nothing is less flexible than a teaching job. There are thirty plus kids in my class every hour on the hour. It is impossible to get a sub these days. Someone can’t just “cover for me” when I’m out. I also can’t just miss and put the work off till tomorrow. So a lot of those “days off” turn into days where I run errands that people with regular jobs can do whenever. I can’t just take a long lunch and go to the DMV. I also don’t have a large stash of vacation days I can use whenever I want. My vacation better be over the actual breaks they give us.
I have enjoyed my summer breaks over the past few years but they are not what outsiders think they are. This isn’t me, the obviously biased teacher, telling you this. This is what the market is saying. If teaching is so easy and has such great perks like the mythical “paid summer vacation” why do we have so much trouble finding people willing to do it? Every year, thousands of new teachers enter the workforce and are driven away by the long hours and the stressful environment way before they even get to the vacation part. Summer break is literally just the time we need to regroup to do it all over again next year. And honestly, that amount of time is not even enough.