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Do Teachers Have Their Summers Off?

Do teachers really have their summers off? In defense of educators around the world, the answer is a resounding “No!” Are we complaining? Of course not. We love our students. We love what we do. Teachers work all summer to create a quality learning experience for every student. Why? The future of our world is sitting right in our classroom. 

This post is Part 1 of a collaborative series. Click here to read Part 2, a compilation of comical tales from the secondary classroom.

“Teaching is such a family friendly job. You get to be home on holidays, your hours are relatively short (I mean, you’re done by 3:00, right?), and you get the whole summer off!” I’m sure you’ve been the recipient of flippant comments like this one. It’s easy to label people who make these statements as callous or judgmental, but maybe it really isn’t possible to understand what it means to be a teacher until you are one.

As someone who has taught for over a decade, I can say with 100% certainty that I do not currently, nor have I ever, had my summers off. Can I get an Amen!? Sure, unless you teach summer school, you might not physically be in your classroom every day, but teachers work all year — even after 3:00 p.m. (gasp!) to provide a quality education for their students. Teaching is a rare profession. There’s very little separation between what we do and who we are. Our livelihood is part of us. In a way, it defines us. That’s what non-teachers don’t understand.

I’m certainly not complaining. The vast majority of educators truly enjoy their work. Thoughts about how to improve classroom management, increase engagement, incorporate technology, implement effective differentiation, and develop a positive classroom culture are constantly swirling in our heads. We enjoy thinking about best practices, research-based instruction, and new teaching strategies. Watching news clips, listening to songs on the radio, and attending movies at the theater — these normal, every-day activities fill teachers’ heads with a constant stream of educational possibilities. Still, the effort a teacher dedicates to his or her job over the summer doesn’t stop at thinking.

To gather a sampling of examples regarding how teachers dedicate themselves to their work over the summer, I surveyed a handful of my colleagues. So, what follows is just a drop in the bucket. How can it be that teachers aren’t really off all summer? What could we possibly be doing during our extended vacation?

1. Gathering Literature

“I am always picking up new books to read that might work for my classroom. Summer time is a great time to power through a whole bunch of titles that I haven’t had a chance to get to yet.” ~ Rebecca Gettelman

2. Uncovering Relevant Texts

“Read, read, read, and research. Looking for new and engaging things students will love always takes time, and it feels like summers are the only time to do it.” ~ Leslie from Story Trekker

3. Writing Curriculum

“I spend much of the summer writing new curriculum for the following year and reading up on teaching strategies.” ~ Doc from Education with DocRunning

4. Researching

“Each summer I continue my professional development through coursework or independent research. I try to take what I learn and plan an overview of how I can incorporate the new ideas into my classroom. And, of course, I head into school a few days early to start to set up my classroom, prepare for the first couple of weeks of school, and copy/laminate/organize everything I can to get off to a good start.” ~ Amanda from Free to Discover

5. Aligning Assessments

“This summer, I’m working on aligning my formative assessments to my summative assessments. It’s a lot of work to rewrite curriculum like this, but I enjoy it! Plus, it gives me an excuse to hang out the coffee shop down the street.” ~ Doc Cop

6. Meeting Professional Development Requirements

“Right now I am working on a Masters degree in Literacy Education, so this summer I will have two courses to complete. Not only am I not getting paid, I’m PAYING to do that! So far, I’ve never taught summer school, but I do usually try to get some lesson planning done before school starts. And of course, all schools and districts require some professional development during the summer, and we start back a week or so before the students do.” ~ Whitney LaDon from The Poetry That Is Life

7. Developing New Units

“I once spent a week at a cabin in the woods studying Thoreau and putting together my unit on Transcendentalism. It was so much fun!” ~ Betsy from Spark Creativity

8. Lesson Planning

“Pinch my pennies? LOL. I would wager the one thing every teacher does over the summer that does not pay is lesson plan. That’s why I love TPT. It makes lesson planning so easy and I can help other teachers in return.” ~ Laugh & Learn with Lindsay

9. Meditating and Brainstorming

“Read, Read, and READ! Summer is my time to read new texts. I don’t usually have much time to thoroughly and closely read a new text during the school year, so summer is my time to meditate on a new text and brainstorm how to approach it during the school year. I also enjoy taking the time to research and find new projects, lesson plan ideas, themes, and assessments when I’m not being rushed to make quick decisions like during the school year.” ~ Meredith from Bespoke ELA

10. Reflecting

I’ve taught for eleven years, and the one practice that has helped me grow, improve, and become more confident in my abilities is a daily reflection. Summer, especially, is the perfect time to look back on choices I’ve made (regarding curriculum, technology, classroom management, parent communication, etcetera) because I can see how all of those decisions played out. It’s a humbling process…this notion of being honest with ourselves and admitting imperfections. But, it’s in the admission of weakness that we can transform our teaching. Reflecting on the school year during the summer months gives me the inspiration to create new units and activities, to try or devise new instructional approaches, to better appreciate my students, to find a more appropriate balance between my work life and home life, and to conduct research in areas where I know I want to improve. To me, reflection is more valuable than any professional development session I’ve attended. If I decided not to reflect because “it’s summer” and “I’m off,” I would be doing a disservice both to my students and to my growth as an educator. We might not get paid for it, but reflecting, setting goals, and planning new instruction revolutionizes the teaching experience. ~ Melissa from The Reading & Writing Haven

11. Creating Materials

I love this statement from the Language Arts Classroom regarding society’s misconceptions with respect to the teaching profession:

Well, I think that entire claim is shortsighted. Teachers are paid for working a nine-month period – and that pay is decent (where I live). However, we receive no paid vacation. I have never had a friend who has a professional job that requires multiple degrees not receive paid vacation. I do work during the summer – researching, reading, writing curriculum and activities. So, if most teachers work year-round, they are not paid appropriately.

I feel that most citizens do not look at that situation accurately – either we teachers are not paid enough for working year round, or we are paid for working nine months with no paid vacation – and are still expected to complete professional development, curriculum development, and school year planning on the unpaid vacation. Lauralee from Language Arts Classroom

So what’s the point? No one is asking anyone to feel sorry for us, but it’s time to get real. Educators work hard. Our salaries don’t speak to our worth. We certainly don’t dedicate our lives to this profession for the paycheck. Rather, we do it because it’s our passion. It’s our gift. In defense of teachers, let’s start supporting them for all the love and effort they put into providing their students with a unique, innovative, twenty-first century educational experience. If we want to keep quality teachers in the profession, we need to honor the time, sacrifices, and creative thought they invest to excel in their field.

Are you a teacher? We’d love to hear how you dedicate yourself to your job during the summer months. Leave us your thoughts in the comments! Do you love a teacher? We want to hear from you, too! How do you see your teacher friend or family member working hard to prepare for the next academic year?

This post is the first of an inspirational collaborative series for teachers. The entire series includes:
  1. In Defense of Teachers: Do We Really Have Our Summers Off?
  2. Top 10 List: The Craziest Thing Happened in the Classroom Today…
  3. Our Favorite Decor for the Secondary Classroom
  4. Must-Try Organizational Tools and Classroom Procedures
  5. How to Rejuvenate Over the Summer
  6. Summer Reading Recommendations for Teachers
  7. Creating Literacy-Rich Environments all Summer Long
  8. Be Inspired: Favorite Quotes for Teachers

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