No, Teachers Don't Get Summers "Off", Here's What They REALLY Do
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"Must be nice to have your summers off!"
We've all heard those non-teacher comments, whether they be trolls on Facebook, ignorant parents, or random bystanders who have no clue what teachers go through on a daily basis. Whoever you may be, this article is for you. Teachers want you to know the truth about what really happens during summer break (as well as all other breaks, for that matter), because it's not what you might think.
1. We take a moment to enjoy becoming human again.
The accomplishments achieved over the course of 180 days is something to be proud of! So the first thing teachers do is take a few days to spend time with their family, catch up on some sleep, go to the bathroom whenever they need to, go out to lunch like normal people, read books not written for children, have a Netflix marathon, and try to recharge the batteries that ran out of juice about 8 months ago. This is a time when many teachers spend some time thinking about the students they'll miss and reminisce about all the classroom memories they made with their kids this year.
2. We prepare for another year of turning readers into leaders.
All that resting and recharging, yeah, that doesn't last long! Resting is not part of a teacher's mantra. Before you know it, teachers are back on task, researching and pinning new ideas on Pinterest to improve their lesson plans, and coming up with new classroom activities to better engage their students. Just as science, technology, and education continues to change and evolve, the teacher brain never truly rests. We constantly search for new ways to improve our practice and ensure we're feeding our students the most up-to-date information and concepts. That's what we do, it's part of who we are.
3. We professionally develop our game.
Teachers are required to spend a certain amount of hours each year on Professional Development in order to renew their teaching certifications. These come in the form of teacher conferences, teacher workshops, or any other specialized training, formal education, or advanced learning intended to help improve our professional knowledge, competence, skill, and effectiveness. When do you think we have time for this? That's right, weekends and breaks. Not quite the dream vacation, sitting through conferences and classes during our "break".
4. We keep teaching... online.
Believe it or not, most teachers aren't paid over the summer. That means we need to find a way to make money during the break, so our bank account balances don't evaporate into thin air. With all the qualifications and training we have, continuing to do what we do best just makes sense.
Teaching online with VIPKID is an awesome way to make good money from the comfort of your home. Or even better, pack your laptop and enjoy that summer vacation you deserve. All you need is an Internet connection at the hotel and you can afford to take that much-needed trip.
5. We find other ways to pay the bills.
A young rapper once said, "Mo' money, mo' problems." Think he might have meant, "NO money, mo' problems." If you're not taking advantage of teaching online from home, and your yearly salary isn't spread out over the summer months, then you're one of the many teachers that spends their break working a second job to make ends meet. Some drive for Uber, some tutor, some wait tables, others dabble in the freelance industry. The amount of teachers with second jobs during the school year is astonishing. For some teachers, the summer is spent working 2nd and even 3rd jobs.
6. We sneak into school early to make our classrooms look awesome... with our own money, of course!
We take pride in our learning environments. The look and feel of a classroom can do wonders for how students learn. So we cut our summer break weeks short, looking for ideas on Pinterest, collecting materials from friends, family and local businesses, researching flexible seating options, shopping the back-to-school supplies sales, and trying to raise money or find generous donations, to reduce the amount we have to spend from our own pockets. Not to mention, we go into school in the heat of August, before the AC is turned back on (if you're lucky enough to work in a school with AC), and sweat off all the weight we gained over the break. We decorate the walls with bulletin boards, anchor charts, and posters; we create reading corners, and some of us explore the world of full-on classroom transformations. The possibilities are endless in the imagination of a teacher!
7. We go back to school and get another degree.
We teachers love to go and get all these fancy degrees that allow us to understand that we'll never make enough money to pay for all of them. Regardless, we go back and get that Masters or even a Doctorate degree, and hope for a higher salary than the guy who installed the cable in the house we can't afford, either. Oh, and night classes only by the way, because we punch out from our summer jobs at 5:00pm. Woo hoo, summer break...
8. We skip summer break and teach ALL year long.
Oh, we're not kidding! It's called summer school or summer camp. Some students need to go to summer school and teachers are needed to teach them. A lot of teachers who don't get paid over summer break actually prefer to have summer school, so they don't have to eat ramen noodles for 2 months in order to avoid bankruptcy and foreclosure. For summer school teachers, there's no time to relax and recharge. The struggle continues, no matter the season.
9. We volunteer to help make the world a better place.
Teachers have big hearts. That's not breaking news. While we can't speak for EVERY single teacher, the majority of teachers didn't get into this profession for the money and fame. Most do it because they believe in serving a purpose that's bigger than themselves. One student at a time, we hope to make a difference in the world. As cheesy and cliché as that may sound, deep down, we really hope to change the world, even if only in a microscopic way. That's why many teachers volunteer their time for a bigger cause during the summer break. It could be participating in the construction of a library in an impoverished community, reading books to cancer patients, or fundraising for equal rights to education in 3rd world countries.
10. We start our own side businesses, to supplement our income during the school year.
Teachers got skills yo! And we put them to work with the little free time we get. Whether it's through an Etsy shop, a TeachersPayTeachers shop, a personal blog, teaching online with VIPKID, or building up our social media pages, millennial teachers are independent, innovative entrepreneurs! We use the power of the Internet and our creativity to build our own businesses, and the time off from the classroom during summer break allows us to focus on those projects, so we don't have to hustle side jobs in between grading papers and sleeping during the school year.
I know all of this is accurate, but here is my response: My employer shuts down for 3 months every year. I am unemployed for that time. I elect to have my salary divided over the entire year so I have income during that period. I take advantage of this time by doing the things listed here, which is have to do during the year were I employed 12 full months. Then I ask if they are required to pay for and complete continuing education to keep their job. I ask if they are required to set up, organize, and decorate their office or workspace out of pocket. Finally, do they have to have a second job to afford basics and take a vacation? Their response is always No, no, no (but sometimes yes).
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