One of the greatest perks of being a teacher is the coveted summer break. While many people choose to believe this is a time for teachers to relax, most of us have an extensive list of things to do and goals to accomplish this summer.
Instead of relaxing by the pool, many teachers continue to teach at a summer school or Extended School Year (ESY) program. I’ve taught at my intermediate unit’s ESY program for the past three years. In addition to teaching three days a week, the program requires me to plan lessons and activities according to IEP goals. I am responsible for daily progress monitoring which is incorporated into a comprehensive report at the end of the summer. In lieu of teaching, numerous teachers will supplement their income with part-time employment at summer camps or non-education related jobs.
The summer is also a time to prep for the next school year. By mid-July, I am in full preparation mode for the upcoming year. I will spend hours scouring educational and department stores to gather supplies for my classroom. Because of budget cuts and supply restrictions, a majority of teachers will dip into their own wallets to buy materials. Crayons, calculators, folders, and glue sticks are just a few of the items on my bargain-hunting list. Summer is an opportunity to research and develop new lesson plans. As a special education teacher, I am always searching for innovative teaching techniques and activities. This summer I will also be attending several workshops for a new online curriculum program being developed in my county.
Continuing education is another popular summer activity for teachers. I spent two summers working on my master’s degree and thesis, meaning I spent more time at the library than outside by the pool. Continuing education is mandatory for teachers. In Pennsylvania, teachers are required to obtain college credits (or credit hours through in-service programs) to keep a valid teaching certificate. Summer is often the best opportunity to take classes and attend seminars. These courses take time away from “vacation” and are an added expense. Few teachers have the luxury of being fully reimbursed for classes. Because I received my master’s degree, I will be blissfully class-free this summer.
Of course summer is a break for teachers. We schedule vacations, spend time with our families, and enjoy the time off. I already have two trips planned for this summer. However, people in numerous occupations choose summer as their time to travel and take time off. Additionally, teachers are not given vacation time throughout the school year. I only receive sick time and a few personal days. Other than paid holidays (which most occupations offer as well), teachers do not get vacations during the school year. The reputation of teachers “barely working” and “doing nothing during summer” is simply incorrect.
I love being a teacher. I firmly believe it is one of the most important and rewarding occupations in our society. I will happily teach students for the next 30 years. I cherish my summer vacation as a time to relax and regroup, but the classroom is never far from my mind.