Every year at the end of May, teachers hear the same song different verse: “Lucky Teachers with their Summers Off.” Thoughts of sitting by the water for three months with a tropical umbrella drink in hand and a cool salt-water breeze gently caressing a sun-kissed face fill the minds of corporate friends dreaming of a break from fluorescent lights and rush hour traffic. The reality is teachers do have some free time in the summer; the myth, however, is that teachers don’t work in the summer. Until one is in the daily grind of the classroom, a teacher’s schedule during the year is difficult to grasp. Keeping up with planning, grading, administrative tasks, and investing relationally with students more than fills our day while thoughts of reflection, reading professional development books, and lengthy collaboration with colleagues are pushed to summer when we have time to catch our breath and maintain a thought for longer than 30 seconds.
To dispel the myth of teachers not working during the summer, I decided to keep track of my “work.” A couple of notes:
1 – I chose to do these things. Some teachers, even though I don’t know very many who fit in this category, choose not to do any work over the summer, and that is completely fine. We are paid for 190 days which doesn’t include summer days.
2 – I am not trying to show off or complain; I simply desire to dispel the myth that teachers don’t work during the summer.
3 – Even for the teachers who choose not to “work” over the summer, no teacher is ever fully off. Teachers are ambassadors for their schools and have countless conversations with curious parents over the summer about school, other teachers, schedules, the past year, the upcoming year, etc. at the grocery store, pool, and restaurants.
My last contracted day of the 2016-2017 was May 31st, and here’s a brief list of what’s happened since then:
June 1st – presented “Building a PLN through Social Media” at the Coweta/Fayette Tech Summit
June 2-9 – worked between 2-3 hours each day on my personal and professional website in order to have them somewhat cleaned up before the AP reading
June 10-18 – AP reading – I read 1,450 essays in 7 days but more importantly collaborated and networked with friends and colleagues from around the nation; the AP reading is the best professional development I receive throughout the year
June 21, 24, 25,28 – publish posts to a professional website about the reading
June 29 – met with three other English teachers to plan for NCTE presentation; how exciting is it that four Northgate teachers are leading a workshop on writing at a national conference?
July 3 – Mastermind group
July 5 – meet with parent who is new to my school to answer some questions – a realtor friend connected us, AP scores released so I was in contact with last year’s students on and off throughout the day
July 6 – meet with my new principal where he lays down the law about me behaving; can you believe this only took 2 hours? We actually met with a couple of other admins and talked about school goals and the English department
July 7 – meet with 2 brand new English teachers and two veteran teachers to help these new teachers wrap their minds around the classroom- I love talking about teaching with new teachers!
July 8-15 – Blue Skies – I took this week off for a volunteer vacation and did not do any school work
July 17 – spent at least an hour breaking down last year’s English test scores from every angle possible and thinking about what this means for instruction; participated in an educator focus group at the Atlanta Shakespeare Tavern
July 18 – worked on school wide goals
July 20 – lunch with dept chair from a local school and a new teacher, met a family who is new to Northgate at the school to show them around, tour a potential new family at my school, set up my computer and work in my room for an hour
July 21 – meet a new colleague at school to help him move in
July 24 – paint bookshelves at school, work in my room getting it ready for the first day of school, cleaned out the teacher workroom so teachers won’t have to do this when they come to work, put together supply order for the English department
July 25 – SBLT meeting from 9 – 2 to plan for the upcoming year, worked in my room until 5
July 27 – at the beach but dealt with some scheduling issues
July 28 – 31 – who knows what the four days before school will hold; I’m sure it will look like the above schedule
In addition to my summer reading which consists of a mix of young adult lit (even though it’s not my favorite genre, I need to read what teens are reading), contemporary fiction, and nonfiction, but I also read some books for work including In Order to Live, Disrupting Thinking, Digging into Literature, Beloved, and a reread of The Poisonwood Bible since I haven’t taught it in a while. Once the school year starts, it’s hard to read recreationally.
Now I did my fair share of time reading by the pool, brunching with friends, and napping. I even turned down a couple of opportunities to speak at conferences and write for some site because I didn’t want to walk all summer. If you’re still jealous of the teacher’s schedule, here’s a few questions for you. Can you be in a building with 2,000 teenagers for ten months of the year? Or rather can you be in a class with 32 seventeen-year-olds for 90 minutes? Can you handle the pressure of standardized testing and knowing that your evaluation rests partially in the hands of teenagers? If you answered “yes” to these, then you should become a teacher, and you can have your summer off!
Here’s to the last few days of summer, and here is a snapshot of my day today – the only thing missing is the drink with the umbrella.