I never thought I’d choose as a mate someone who was in the same field as I was in, but, as is often the case in my life, God had other plans. As time goes on, the wisdom of that move becomes more apparent. Only another teacher can understand 13-hour days to get the latest round of mandated paperwork. It’s nice to have someone to go in to work with you on Saturdays or Sundays to get individualized lesson plans done. And of course it makes for good “quality time” to have someone to grade papers with of an evening over a mug of hot chocolate.
Many people outside of education don’t really understand a teacher’s calling. In fact, there are those out there who try to minimize the job of school teacher. Never mind that a very high number of teachers get out of the profession within the first few years, and for those who stay, burnout is a disproportionately high occupational hazard. Teaching requires more time, effort, and energy than most people realize. Plus, no one gets rich off a schoolteacher’s salary, and for those who think that the real benefits of being a teacher come in “cushy” hours and summers off, think again!
Our contract time is for 40 hours per week, barring any extra duties such as coaching, clubs, or other sponsorships. There is, of course, time spent at home grading, planning, researching and contacting parents. Actual in-school time for us averages 56 hours per week, which, by simple mathematics, is much more than enough when spread out to cover 40 hour workweeks for summers and other vacations.
Of course, teachers do not get paid for summers or for overtime. But what about all that time in the summer? Let me diagram our last summer for you, so you can see what we are able to make out of our summer “vacation.”
Angie took a grad school class to kick off the summer. It lasted from 8:00-2:30 each day for the month of June. That’s her choice, you might say? Here’s something you need to know. Teachers are required to continually upgrade their skills and take classes in order to renew their certification. This is what a lot of teachers I know do for a big chunk of the summer. I did not need that this year, so I taught full-day summer school in June. The only time we spent together in June was weekends.
July starts with what a retired teacher couple explained to me this way, “The first few weeks off, you and your spouse will not be on speaking terms. It takes about that long to again be civil to each other.” I chuckled when I heard it, but now, I feel sorry for couples who only have one teacher in them, because not only is it eerily and absolutely true, it’s probably very frightening to the non-teacher spouse. Why this happens is difficult to put my finger on. My best guess is that it has to do with the special requirements of the job. Few outside of teaching can understand the special intensity of the work, the emotional involvement, and the non-stop demands wrapped up in the job.
The rest of July is usually for college classes, conferences and perhaps a week or so of true vacation time. I attended a Wilson Reading training, a Schoolwide Positive Behavior Supports conference, AIMSweb training and worked on my classroom webpage for the balance of my July.
August usually starts with teacher meetings. Buildings are opened up again, and “Teacher Store Madness” sets in. The excitement of preparing for a new class of students, finding activities that improve upon last year’s, and spending your own money at the teacher store is infectious among us teachers, glad to have the new school year begin in a week or two. Open houses for us have always been so early, you have had to come in the first of August to have your classroom ready to meet parents after the summer cleaning the custodians do.
In order to convey an appreciation for the job of teaching, I had to highlight the difficulty of the job if it is to be done right. I am not complaining about my calling to the job I love to do. It most certainly is a daily challenge to anyone who does it right. I am happy for that challenge. I could not imagine doing anything else at this point in my life. Just don’t say teachers have it easy.