“Teachers have so much time off” is an often repeated sentiment among non-educators.
True, teachers have vacation time that rivals workers in European nations. For example, Portugal provides for 35 paid days off. Never mind that the teacher summer leave is unpaid.
In Glendale, those who do teach in the summer end up with 4 weeks off compared to 9 for those who don’t. I’m fortunate to be in the minority of teachers who don’t teach summer school, though that wasn’t the case for my first 20 years.
It was a nice coincidence that when I finally did settle down, get married, and have children (in that order, by the way), I had the extra time off to spend with my kids who were also at home.
“Time off” is something that is quite relative. It reminds one of the saying “time off for good behavior” which of course refers to prisoners not teachers (though there may be a few similarities).
As a teacher, my mind remains “on,” receptive to ideas I absorb through reading material and watching content. I’ll print out a well written op-ed piece to share with my journalism students or I’ll draft a new way to help kids edit their writing.
Hours are invested in organizing files, lessons, thoughts before the school engine revs up.
What I’ve discovered is that it takes a few weeks to decompress from the rush-rush-rush nature of teaching five classes a day. Once my mind ebbs and flows at a more natural clip, then I can relax.
Even if a teacher is able to not think about work, days out of the classroom may help those who feel the dreaded teacher disease—teacher burnout.
When I was a rookie teacher, many a veteran colleague spoke of teacher burnout as a coal miner would of black lung disease, an ailment that inevitably gets to all educators.
Old, bitter people holding court in the faculty cafeteria sharing their war stories and exit strategies were not going to burst my enthusiastic bubble.
I learned quite early on to pace myself. Teaching requires a level of mental and physical vitality that is hard to sustain if school were in session year round. Teachers don’t have solar panels on their bodies that store energy from the summer ready for dispersion throughout the rest of the year.
What is asked of and demanded of teachers nowadays is an impossible expectation. How can you meet the Common Core standards, keep up with the ever changing pedagogy, accurately account for the whereabouts for 150 students, handle the emotional needs of dozens of diverse students from a variety of cultural backgrounds, and still connect to kids so that they will receive instruction that will improve their skills?
Each start of school I have to brace myself for the first month until things finally settle into a routine.
Those initial weeks more than pays for all the time off during the summer.
Well, I can confidently say that as I enter my 26th year of teaching I have yet to catch teacher burnout (maybe it’s the Omega-3 fish oil supplements).
Quite frankly, I’ve grown to enjoy teaching the more I do it. What I still relish about it is that no matter the increasing encroachment of federal and state mandates, I still control and create much of the work I do with children.
Perhaps when I retire I’ll grasp the meaning of “time off” means. Until then an idea just came to me on how to get kids jazzed about using subordinating conjunctions.