I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me about what I (as an educator) do during the summer. Maybe this misconception is why so many people still see teaching/education as a job rather than a profession. I can honestly say that since I graduated college, I’ve never truly had a summer off.
When I first started teaching, summers meant summer school (as well as working extra hours at my p/t retail job). It was the mid-1990′s, and I had student loans to pay on a very low salary. I’d usually manage a month or so without student-contact time, but that was it.
After three years, I relocated and didn’t have a job waiting (then fiance’ / now husband had less than two months notice when transferred). This meant taking the first full-time contract teaching position I could get. I was at an inner-city charter school with a year-round program. Bye-bye month off in the summer.
Two years later, I went to work in a traditional suburban school district. Officially, I had summers “off” but at the end of my first year I went from being an English teacher to a teacher/technology coordinator. Not only did I have to do my curriculum work – some of it paid/required by the district, some of it because I knew there would be no time during the school year – but now I had to put in a couple of weeks over the summer prepping building tech for the start of the new year. I was also asked/required by the district to deliver teacher training, participate in various curriculum adoptions, support professional development institutes, etc. If I was lucky, I’d have a couple of uninterrupted weeks each summer.
Once we had our 1:1 program in place, hardware repair/refurbishing was added to my plate. Each summer meant laptop roll-in, assessing and facilitating necessary repairs, designing the new laptop image, supporting teachers over the summer (all of my teachers now had laptops which needed occasional summer support), and reimaging/prepping machines for the new year. It also meant extra training for students and parents every year in addition to increased faculty training, especially for new folks. Of course, none of this time was built into my contract, so my principal and I had to fight for the time every year. He knew I’d put in 2x whatever time he got for me; it was a good deal for the school, and it meant I had money to cover daycare when my daughter needed a sitter on days I had to be at school.
When I started at SPA, my contract had an additional 4 weeks built in each summer. This meant two weeks in June after teachers left and two weeks before they came back; in reality, I still needed a couple of weeks for my own curriculum because 4 weeks for everything mentioned above just wasn’t enough. Still, not a bad deal. I was being paid for the time I was required to put in; no complaints.
This year my director of technology had to take an unexpected med leave, so two of us are splitting her roll (I get the instructional side – again, a good deal) in addition to our own work. I was told by my principal and head of school to take at least two full weeks off (not even check email). I’m not sure how that will work out, but I’m willing to give it a go.
During my on time, I’m trying to have a productive structure to my days. About half of my day is currently spent supporting or collaborating with teachers – writing curriculum, answering tech questions, corresponding via email and phone when issues arise, f2f collaboration and planning for the new year, etc. I’m trying to spend 30 minutes each day on research, PLN collaboration, and my personal professional development (Wish I could give myself clock hours for recertification). The remainder of my day is spent in meetings, working on student laptop roll-in/out/refurbishing, prepping images, and, when I have time, writing curriculum and support materials for fall.
Somehow I find this a little more relaxing than my regular days during the school year, but the phrase summer vacation hardly seems to apply for more than a week or two. I have to wonder if any experienced teachers really take summers off?