Stop posting that your "break" is over...
By Angela Fowler
Why I wish teachers would stop posting about and lamenting about their "break" being over.
It's NOT BECAUSE TEACHERS ARE NOT OWED THIS TIME! But because people just don’t understand how hard you work and how much you are actually OWED this time off. So, they think "break?" Why should they get a summer break? We don't? In fact it's not a break, it's your comp time, your vacation time, your continuing education time, and your mental health time.
So for non-teachers, this is why summer is NOT a break for teachers!
-FIRST, this is not a "break." This time is actually owed to teachers. According to the National Education Association (NEA) teachers work on average 50 hours a week on official school duties and 12 hours a week on their own time. So, that means teachers are actually owed nearly 19 weeks of comp time a year, because they don't get paid for most of that extra work. Add on top of that that they don't get vacation time at the minimum of three weeks vacation a year. Even if you consider they get a few days off at Christmas and in Spring, that is still at least 20 weeks of comp and vacation time teachers are owed. Since the summer is actually only 15 weeks max, they are still owed 5 weeks when summer ends. How many of you would give 5 weeks of comp time to your company for other peoples children? Teachers do...
-SECOND, this is not a "break." Many teachers take second jobs, teach summer school, take on curriculum projects, or do coaching for their schools over the summer. Why? Because teachers are one of the lowest paid professionals in the United States, they are required to have a specific college education and license to practice with lots and lots of requirements, which include continuing education. They also have lots and lots of college debt, because those who can afford college out of pocket know better than to choose a low paid profession like teaching, so they have to work a second job to make ends meet and pay back their student loans.
-THIRD, this is not a "break." Most teachers will be doing some sort of professional development during this time and often at their own expense. Again yearly continuing education is required for licensed teachers and when you work 62 hours a week this is hard to get in during the school year. However, they also do it because they are dedicated to your children and really want to improve their practice to support your child success.
-FOURTH, this is not a "break." This is mental health leave. Teachers are currently under more stress than any other time and it shows. Some research shows 50% of new teachers quit after 5 years of teaching. Teachers have large class sizes, more students with special needs, and less support to deal with these issues. Teachers are also facing punitive consequences based on student performance. No one is saying teachers shouldn't be accountable for their teaching, but when was the last time your evaluation was determined based on another person in your departments performance! NO MATTER how hard you worked. This is causing extreme stress on teachers who already had a stressful job. I bet most of you could not even imagine trying to support the learning of 24 four year olds every day! I am betting many of you have a time just keeping up with your 1 four year old. So, time out of the classroom in the summer and time with friends and family is extremely important to the mental well being of teachers. This keeps teachers in classrooms teaching your children.
I could keep going on and on, but it doesn't really matter, summer time off is time that is owed to teachers! It is comp time, vacation time, continuing education time, and mental health leave. So, teachers stop posting that you are coming back from "break!" This is your time... own it.... share it. But don't forget to remind people that you don't work a 9 month job, you are actually asked to put 12 months worth of work into 9 months!!
Angela Fowler, is the Executive Director of Cultivating the Early Years.