I know what you did this summer

Elmo SprinklerI relaxed this summer and I’m not ashamed of it. I spent time playing in the sprinkler with my children. I enjoyed the fine weather from my back patio. Some mornings I watched the Today Show while enjoying my morning coffee. There, my secret is out. I’m a teacher and I like the summer break.

For a long time, I found myself going on the defensive when I talked about my summer with non-teachers. As if I was being audited, I’d go into a long list of all the education related tasks I did during June, July and August.

A story from NPR’s All Thing’s Considered shows that other teachers do the same. Their four minute clip presents teachers who are taking extra courses and attending workshops. One teacher is actually working as a waitress to supplement her income.

Many teachers work hard during the summer. I myself attended a few workshops and conferences. Yet, we should not be ashamed if we enjoy some much needed time off. After all, we’re not being paid to work the full year.

NPR implies that summer is the busiest time of the year for teachers. I disagree. Our work, like several other fields, is seasonal. We have a peak time and we have an off-season. The summer is our off-season.

I grew up on a farm. In the summer, we spent long hours on the job but during the winter the work slowed down. My parents would plan for the next growing season by setting up seed vendors and preparing equipment for another summer in the fields. No one ever asked my parents, “What did you do this winter?”

During my summer, I do all the things I want to do during the school year but can’t find the time for because my desk is always full of papers to grade or lessons to prepare. I think about what worked and what didn’t. I learn new material and teaching strategies for the next year. Teachers need the down time that the summer break provides. It provides us time for the important job of reflecting on the past school year.

In my subject area, science, we’re having a harder time recruiting new people to become teachers. I wonder if we’re underselling the summer break. Do we really want to send the message to the potential educators out there that this job is a rat race year-round?