The one where I tell you to kindly shut up

When you think you are casually bringing up the idea of “summer vacation” to a teacher, the reality is you are inadvertently being a douche. Because teachers and summer vacation don’t exist in the way you think they do. Non-teachers assume that teachers work from 9-3pm, get paid fairly and spend large parts of their day doing crafts. We wear witch earrings on Halloween, celebrate Christmas with carols and go on field trips to fun locales. We are rewarded for our pursuits with two months of pure rest and relaxation, where we will jet set the world with our easily earned money, collecting compliments from strangers when we tell them of our occupation and will come back to teach in September smelling of freedom and sporting a sun kissed glow only achieved by island hopping.

Maybe that’s an exaggeration. But unless you ARE a teacher or are the relative of someone who has chosen to spend a fair share of their adult life coaxing paper from a photocopier machine, you have no idea. So stop acting like I should be envied for both July and August. Your envy makes me want to curb stomp your soul.

Imagine having a job where you routinely had to hold your pee for 8-10 hours. Imagine, that even if you were so sick and were choking on your own vomit, you were required to come to work and spend two hours planning what your replacement would do the following day, where calling in sick was JUST the beginning of your sick day duties. Imagine having a job that required you to work 10 hours a day (plus weekends), though society thought you only worked 6 (and spent your weekends working on your tan). Imagine teaching a someone who was born with cocaine in his system so there is a twenty second delay for him to understand any instruction you give him. Every. Instruction. Imagine having him and 4 other students in the class with ADHD- plus a boy who refuses to speak due to actions he’s witnessed at home and one more, a girl who is deaf and you have to teach them all algebra. Get started. Low test scores mean you aren’t doing your job, didn’t you hear?

Imagine being required to bring your own supplies for work (and for the twenty plus others you work with) and not getting compensated for this. Imagine monthly lice outbreaks at your job. Imagine girls cutting themselves and eating disorders that make your stomach ache. Imagine bullying so bad it’s worse than any documentary. Imagine drug busts at work and parents yelling at you on your lunch break. Imagine being the parent figure for all the students who do not have parents. Imagine being responsible for feeding students their only meal of the day and waking up realizing in eight days all the kids you’ve been feeding at school will be on holidays and you are left to think of how they will feed themselves. Imagine.

This is what it is. Teaching is the single hardest job outside the home. It is beyond lonely and is so overwhelming the majority of teachers quit within their first five years. It is heartbreaking and soul sucking and has left me so exhausted that I’ve fallen asleep at red lights. It’s a personal sacrifice to become a teacher- besides the missed parties and get togethers due to either work that needed to be done or sheer exhaustion, it costs teachers a lot to teach. This year alone, I’ve spent over $2445.58 on my classroom. I’m not buying iPads and laptops, I’m buying scribblers and erasers.

So when a well meaning individual comes up and tells me that it must be nice to be a teacher, how lucky I have July and August- it really is all I can do to not to murder them. For most teachers, July and August are necessary mental health breaks to get over the ten previous months of seeing horrendous acts and hearing the tragic stories most parents and non-teachers cannot even begin to assume happen in schools. It’s two months to forgive yourself for the home lives you can’t fix and to try and let go of the children who you can’t help. It’s also two months to start over and plan for the following year- because next September your students don’t have ADHD, but FAS, ODD and you’ll have a handful of ESL kids who are just learning a new language and you have ten months to get them reading “Island of the Blue Dolphins”.

July and August are my sixty days to take deep breaths. To remind myself that there is good in my job, that there is good in what I do. July and August are not calming. Teachers do not simply switch ‘off’. My job does not allow me to ‘punch out’. There is no break, there is simply a time where the students are not there and you worry and wonder about all you don’t see. Where you plan for what you can’t plan for and anxiously countdown to September to start it all over again.

Because for every lice outbreak, cutting epidemic, screaming parent or bullying administrator, there’s a teacher who gets sixty days of the year to process it all, sort through everything, read, research and figure out how they can make the next year better.

Some call that vacation time, I call that fucking work.

 

67 comments to The one where I tell you to kindly shut up

  • i don’t know where to start other than this was amazing and i applaud you so hard for your work and your ability to continue to do this day after day, year after year. i know that i personally don’t have the strength to do a job like yours, and i am so grateful that there are teachers out there like you fighting for their students and for what’s right. a few summers ago i worked alongside some teachers who had to pick up extra jobs during their “break” in order to break even throughout the year. they were great examples to me, as are you. i hope you have some amazing things planned for yourself this summer – you deserve it. xo.

  • Yep. To everything. I’m not a teacher, but my mom and some close friends are, and a lot of teachers take other jobs in the summer- retail, tutoring, teaching summer school. Because they need the extra money because doing everything you just described doesn’t pay well enough.

    I hope your time off is relaxing and fun. You’ve earned it!

  • Absolutely amazing. I find it so incredibly unbelievable that there are people out there who think teachers get paid fairly. Or that it’s a ‘cushy’ job. Assholes.

    But seriously, this is so perfectly written. LOVE.

  • My dad is a high school counselor and by the time he unwinds from the previous year, it’s time to go back to work. That break is so, so necessary. I hope you get a chance to recharge and don’t let the idiot haters get you down. You are amazing for doing what you do every year!

  • Shelley

    Can you email this to the entire state of Wisconsin and to all the naysayers in the media who think that teachers don’t deserve the decent pay and benefits that we receive for our full-time job? Even the best, most successful teachers welcome the two month break they get at the end of 9 months of teaching.

    This fall I’m starting my first year of teaching. I know it will be very stressful but also rewarding. I’m really excited but I know how much work it’s going to be and how much pressure I’ll be under. From what I can tell a teacher’s job is not unlike a corporate job in terms of workload and amounts of stress except that teachers can’t move up the pay scale as fast as those in the private sector. Not to mention there are plenty of people in the world (parents included!) who don’t consider teachers “professionals.”

    I hope you enjoy your time off. From what I can tell, you are a great teacher who fights constantly to help your students succeed.

  • Jen

    I applaud teachers for all of their hard work. My mom was a teacher and my 2 best friends are now. However I get that teachers have hard jobs and work long hours, but it’s constantly brought up as a defensive argument whenever people comment on summer breaks and used as a “my job is harder than your job” argument. Like the rest of us non-teachers don’t work really hard or work 10+ hour days regularly or spend long weeks traveling away from our families. We are all working hard and just trying to get by. BUT. Any way you slice it – having 2 months off in the summer IS a perk of the job and teachers should just own that instead of feeling like they need to justify it. If I could get a smaller salary to have a sanity break in the summer – you bet your ass I’d do it and own it like a MF.

  • God, I love your writing.

    I was once at Subway when I heard some people chatting about how easy teachers have it. I wanted to yell at them, “You are at SUBWAY IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY! Teachers NEVER get to leave in the middle of the day, jerks!”

    Some teachers might go to work for 7 hours a day and do nothing all summer long (heck, I work with some of them), but the vast majority work their asses off.

    Which is exactly why I couldn’t be a teacher (I went to school for elementary ed for 3 years…)

    Also, I feel the same way when I visit your blog as I do when I look at Gabe – I feel silly for talking about how attractive I find it, but I can’t help it! Prettttty.

  • Fuck yes! Awesome post. I admire all my teacher friends and think you guys are extraordinary.

  • As always, beautifully written and well thought out, lady. I was raised in a family of teachers, so I’ve heard my fair share of horror stories from them, and then reading this… My eyes are open.

    It makes me sad that people feel the need to minimalism what teachers (and many others) actually do. And the more things I’ve seen on teaching and the state of education is in, the more I realize that it’s so important to have people like you who are dedicated — through the good AND the bad — to teaching our children.

    I hope you catch your breath and can breathe deep during your summer break.

  • I am giving Jen above the side eye…

    I have a demanding job. Some days I am exhausted and I get droopy eyed on the bus and I want to scream at my boss to JUST MAKE A DAMN DECISION.

    But…

    I am not worry about children I have grown to care about going hungry or being hit. I am not spending a crap ton of money out of pocket for pens. I do not have to take verbal abuse as part of my job. And you have to do this sometimes all in one day.

    So yes. You take your 60 days. You deserve them. And tell anyone who suggests otherwise to do your job for a week. I know I most certainly could not.

  • Kez

    Well said. While teaching has its rewards, it is most certainly very hard work and it doesn’t stop outside of school hours, that’s for sure. I have several relatives who are/were teachers and many of my close friends have chosen it as their vocation. I respect all of them and I have always vowed that I would never tell them how slack they get to be because of their work.
    I actually studied teaching. I got halfway when being a student teacher broke me. I saw how troubled so many of the kids are and how underprivileged. I hated that as a teacher I wouldn’t be able to do much for them outside of the classroom (where all the damage gets done). I switched to behavioural science and counselling. I completely respect you and all of the teachers out there who work so hard. You’re not just teachers but surrogate parents, social workers, and a host of other roles.

  • Sarah

    So much yes to this post! My mom was a grade one teacher and is now an elementary school principal and some of the stories she tells me break my heart. She leaves for work at 6 am and never gets home before 5 and that is just to do what is *required* never mind all the little extras. If she didn’t have a couple of months to take a breath she’d have burnt out long ago and that would be a fucking shame because she is an awesome teacher and so are you.

  • I wish I could just copy and paste this…print it and hold it up when people bug me. Teaching is one of the hardest jobs out there. If you think otherwise, please come sub for me for just one day. Just one day. I worked for an inner city school in Ohio for five years. The things that I saw and heard while I worked for that district will stick with me for the rest of my life. Yes, I take a “break” in June, July, and part of August. But generally I work summer school and I’m busy planning for the upcoming year. We spend a large proportion of our salaries, which aren’t commiserate with other professions with similar levels of education, on our children and their families. I love what you said and how you said it.

  • You win all the things. This is beautiful.

    I would also mention that many teachers can’t afford to “take the summer off” and end up working at a 2nd job anyway. I know over a hundred of them who will be spending the summer with me training new Teach for America teachers who will be teaching summer school. I also know many teachers who have gone to conferences and training’s over the summer or who spend their whole summer planning their next year because it is too crazy to plan once the year begins. I know very few people who take more than a week “off.”

    Also, whining. Teachers have to deal with ALL THE WHINING!

  • I love you. I’m sharing this with my teacher friends too. You do so much, I’m glad you reminded everyone that it’s not a walk in the park.

  • LovelyAnomaly

    I work at an after-school program but also provide direct service in the public schools twice a week. After-school programing is a whole new world of things, because we are seen as friends more than as teachers. I’ve been exhausted since August. This is our last week of school, but guess what? Summer camp starts in two weeks.

    My mom has been teaching special education for 34 years. I relate to so much of what you’ve written so eloquently.

    But really all I wanted to do is vent that “Island of the Blue Dolphins” is my least favorite book ever and who really decided it was a 4th grade book IT IS BORING. Oooh sorry. Sometimes I am around those 4th graders too much that I start to whine like one.

    Good luck this summer.

  • I love what you’ve written here, thank you. You’ve managed to encapsulate the surge of emotion I feel every time someone mentions how lucky I am to have summer – you’re absolutely right that it’s not really a break, but the time to recover from every moment you felt like breaking down in tears, every time you saw a student not being properly served, every day that you were consumed with work from the moment you woke up to the time you barely made it into bed. I especially appreciate the last few paragraphs where you talk about summer as that recovery and then the intense research/reflection for next year.

  • YES. To everything. Granted, I was Secondary, not Primary, so I *did* get at least 30 whole uninterrupted minutes of lunch each day and could visit the bathroom if I needed to, but that was usually interrupted by somebody asking what days of the month they could get pregnant, students who spent their lunch period in my classroom because they had no friends, gathering make-up work for the kids in ISS or frantically getting ready for the next class period, so really it all evens out.

    Enjoy your breathing time! I tell the teachers I work with now to schedule these 3 days over their summer: (in summary)
    1. Get it out of the way day – write down everything you need to make sure you do once you’re back at school. Write it all down and then leave it. If you can get into your classroom, go in and do something you’ve been avoiding. Just get something work related out of the way so you can proceed to items #2 and #3.
    2. Get down day – do something you’ve missed – get down and have fun. It can be with a friend, a spouse or by yourself – but make a plan to do something FUN.
    3. Lie down day – schedule at least one day where you don’t do ANYTHING. Nobody is allowed to ask you for anything. You don’t do dishes, make the bed, answer the phone (unless you want to), nothing. Just rest.

    (And Jen. You are 100% correct that other people have difficult jobs and in reality, we are all just trying to get by. And having a few days off in July and August is very nice. And I will stop there, because I believe we all need to do our parts to make the internet a more civil place. But until you’ve walked the walk, please refrain from talking the talk!)

  • Great post. I have a lot of teacher friends and it is definitely not an easy job!

    I do have an offer for you though! I have about 20 brand new boxes of crayons from a project I thought I was going to do and don’t know what to do with them. Would they help you out at all? Because I could send them your way! :)

  • Mrs LEJ

    So completely and utterly agree. With every word.

  • Seriously, I wish I could forward this to. . . everyone. I hope you have a wonderful summer, girl, because even though I’m not going to be teaching next year, I still need this next month to process everything this past year. You are awesome – and intelligent and insightful. Most teachers can’t process things the way you’ve just done.

  • and Jen? Really? How about a MUCH smaller salary if you get down to hours and money spent out of pocket and in some cases, lack of benefits? How about still doing work during your “break” and running into children you’ve given your heart and soul to with their parents and see how the homelife is treating them these days? How about having to deal with people like you saying they understand but not really understanding the job and everything that has to do with it?

    • Jen

      I wasn’t looking for an argument. I didn’t want to get defensive & start comparing jobs because I DO respect teachers!! Looks like it’s going to come to that, though. I work at least 70 hours a week most weeks. At least. If you count my travel time and time spent in airports…some weeks it tops 80. If you want to divide my salary by an 80 hour work week; I am certainly not coming out on top…I promise. I am at airports at 4am and home at midnight after 4 day trips cross country. Many other business travelers are in the same boat. Does my job have perks? Of course it does. My cell phone is paid for. I sometimes get to eat nice dinners with customers (although most of the time I eat at Subway by myself). Teacher jobs have perks too – like summer break. If you think for a minute because teachers have to do some work during the summer – it enhances the argument…it doesn’t. The emotional component I will give to you. I can’t imagine what it’s like to work with children who are so broken or need so much love that you can’t even begin to provide enough. I don’t understand everything that teachers do – but they also don’t understand everything I do. I wholeheartedly agree with Tatjana’s point #3 below. That teachers believe they have the most difficult job on earth & nothing else compares is narrow-sighted. Just as it would be narrow-sighted for me to believe the same thing about my job. There are a lot of hard jobs out there & really – none of us understand what other people do. The point I was trying to make is that a summer break (and Christmas/Spring break as well) is a perk of the teacher job. Teachers know that going in, and the rest of us know that we won’t get that going into our jobs. Perks are fine – people need to not get so defensive about it and feel the need to justify why they need a break. I’d bet that MANY MANY people outside of the teaching profession work extremely hard & could use a break every now and then, too.

      • Melinda

        Jen,

        I will trade jobs with you for a year. Even a month. I’m not saying that my job is the hardest job in the entire world; however, and I hate to put it this way but there’s really no other way to put it, it is a calling. I have absolutely no down time from August until June. Feeling sick? Sorry, I have 110 6th graders who need me. No shutting the door to my office and doing paperwork. Yes, I may give them seat work to do on a day that I’m not feeling it, but I still have to be there and be present for them and for questions. I am a teacher, a parent, a counselor, a mediator all day, every day. I have kids come to me with horrendous problems, ones I sometimes cannot even imagine, and I have to do my best to guide them and help them and direct them where they need to go. Teaching is rewarding, but it is also very emotionally draining, in a way that someone who has never taught could never even begin to imagine. Aside from all this, I have not gotten a raise in over 4 years. In fact, with a discontinuation of my stipend and an increase in my insurance, I have effectively gotten a $7200 pay cut over the past 2 years. Why don’t I switch jobs, you ask? Because this is what I need to be doing. I am not complaining about the long hours, the emotional commitment, the pay at all. I love what I do. I wouldn’t want to do anything else. Ever. But please don’t belittle what we do. Yes, everyone needs a break. Everyone’s work is hard. You are completely right about that. I agree. But teachers seriously completely need the breaks we get, if only to decompress and get ourselves ready for a new batch of students. If most people have a bad day at the office, the company may lose a few dollars or a client may be unhappy. If I have too many bad days at my job, I may ruin a student’s love for math or for school in general. Someone may miss a concept in my 6th grade classroom that they need for future math classes and, therefore, get frustrated and never recover. I know this sounds dramatic, but, honestly, it’s the truth.

  • SM

    “We wear witch earrings on Halloween, celebrate Christmas with carols and go on field trips to fun locales.”

    Wait….you don’t do this? Now I’m sad. Every teacher should do this.

    I’ve had a few teacher friends over the years and have heard the same rants. You guys do a lot of work for little to no credit. Additionally, the expectations of teachers continue to grow as parents become less involved in their children’s lives. So not only do you have to teach the little f-ers, you have to be a pseudo-parent, too. I can only imagine. I don’t even want to imagine. I applaud you and every other teacher out there. It is a hard job and the 2 or 3 months you have “off” don’t cut it.

  • I love your writing so much. Thank you for writing this to remind us, non-teachers, how hard you work to teach our children. i’m so thankful for teachers like you.

  • #1)You are awesome.
    #2) Teachers should be paid a living wage starting in year one, not in year 15. I knew so many teachers who were “tenured” to their positions and just…stopped teaching. They finally made enough money and had job security so they checked out. It’s sad and I think it plays a role in pushing teachers like you (young, bright, passionate) out of the field.
    #3) For as much as I know that some teachers work tirelessly day in and day out, I know a few who really don’t. I think it comes down to what subject/age range they teach, and of course, the school district.

  • I’ve taught on and off in the summers. This means most things had already been planned out for me and there were lots of “fun” days and field trips. Yet I still came home exhausted and I still think about the first children I met when I volunteered in a kindergarten class at age 13. Being off in the summer is necessary. Anyone who thinks it’s not has no idea what they are talking about. I hope you get the mental health break you need this summer. Come visit Cali! My mom is a fellow teacher and the most awesome person ever. You two would have a blast together. I’d pop in between studies for hugs and food.

  • I’ve been a sub for about 5 years now, and I know how hard it can be! If it’s tough enough being a sub, being a real teacher must be hard work, not counting all the admin stuff. You gotta have true passion or nothing’s gonna pan out!

  • Tatjana

    Ok. First of all, you are the most awesome teacher!!!!!!! And you deserve your 2 month break and there is no need to justify any of it.
    2. I also know a lot of teachers that don’t work nearly as hard as you do. Do they deserve the break? I don’t know. I don’t really care. I care about how much effort they put into doing their jobs. I care about how they educate children.
    3. I do get annoyed when teachers feel the need to point out how excruciatingly difficult their job is and how no one can relate and how much more they deserve x days off than other people. There are a lot of people that work a lot of hours, put a lot of effort into helping others, never stop thinking about how they can do things better or make things better and don’t get paid enough for what they do. Is teaching a tough job? Yes! Absolutely! I couldn’t do it! But there are a lot of jobs I couldn’t do and I sometimes get the feeling that teachers like to think they are the only ones with a difficult working situation. You’re not. I don’t think teachers deserve a two month break more than other people. I don’t think you deserve it less either.
    4. I don’t know what the situation is like in Canada. Or the States. Or wherever I’m not living. I know that teachers here have a two month summer break, one week in November, two weeks with Christmas, one week in February, two weeks in April, a few long weekends in May and then there’s a bunch of other holidays which means another few days off. I get that people get frustrated about the amount of days off a teacher has. I would like that many days of ‘not working’. But I wouldn’t want your job, so I shouldn’t get your days off. It’s a package deal. People shouldn’t be so upset about the amount of breaks teachers have. You could’ve gone into teaching, but you didn’t. You made a different choice and these are the consequences. Voila!
    5. I love teachers for teaching. I love doctors for being doctors. I love everyone for doing the job they do, especially if they’re committed to it and try to be the best they can be. I love people who work with people a little extra. But I really hate people feel the need to complain about their job ALL THE TIME, no matter what field they are in. If it’s that horrible, go do something else. If you think another job is so much better because you get a two month break, why are you still working where you are? (not you!!!!! you don’t complain!! and you really do seem like THE BEST teacher!!!!)
    6. You are awesome!!!! I just felt I needed to repeat that. In case you had forgotten about it.
    7. Feel free to ignore anything I wrote. Except for the you being awesome part. You should definately not ignore that.

  • My mom and several of my best friends are teachers, so I’m under no illusions that the job is easy. It’s certainly something you have to feel called to do. It must be rewarding for you in some way, though, right? I sure hope so.

  • Sending this to my best friend, an amazing teacher who’s just come off a very tough year in the classroom. As someone who works at an education non-profit, I have SO much respect for the work that you do. Hopefully you can take some time this summer to regroup, because from your blog it sounds like you are an AMAZING teacher and also you’re right – if you’re not there for these kids, who will be?

  • YES. This is (and you are) amazing. I have so much respect for my teacher friends, and I have no idea how you guys do it day in and day out. Never able to run off on a fun trip somewhere because you can’t take holidays when the kids aren’t on holidays. Paying subs to cover your sick days (after preparing the lesson plans and before the marking). Not really getting long weekends because of professional development and lesson planning and marking and all of that. Showing up at school throughout all of August to plan for the coming year and make your classroom a bright place for young people to learn. Putting up with so much of society’s crap and disrespect; there are some easier students, yes, but for most of these kids you are far more than “just” a teacher. And even then, these people who you are teaching are our future. It sounds so cheesy, but it’s absolutely the truth. Those kids in your class will grow up and influence the world because of the role you played in their lives. We need to remember this and dedicate the appropriate resources into these young minds and bodies, rather than burning out the brave souls who spend their days in this generally thankless field.

  • THANK YOU! I am an elementary teacher and hear this all the time. Besides that, I have a friend who teaches high school that yesterday told me her end of the year was so stressful that teaching elementary sounded really appealing…as if elementary teachers just sit at recess with their kids and go home. Definitely makes me want to switch with her to show her how her thinking is so naive.

  • Also, if I could respond to the above comment about teachers thinking they have a harder job than everyone else? I think it may come across that way, but the real point there is not the need to try and prove teaching is the hardest job out there…it’s the need to explain that teachers have a harder job than most people assume.

  • I TOTALLY respect what teacher’s do and I think their job is A LOT harder than most and certainly a lot harder than society perceives it to be.

    I work in the non-profit world and I see a lot of people dealing with a lot of the similar things you listed above though with regular 2 or 3 weeks of holiday time a year and also a low wage. So I’m going to have to agree with Jen and Tatjana’s comment above that the time off IS a sweet perk of the job.

    That said, if I wanted said perk so much I could have become a teacher, but I didn’t so whenever someone says “oh must be nice to have 2 months off” I think you (general you for all teachers) should say “well you could have chosen to be a teacher too ya know!” Because it’s true. It’s the same with myself and others who work in the non-profit world, we could have chosen something else but we didn’t so this is what we get!

    All that being said, I really do have mad respect for teachers and the work that they do shaping our future leaders.

  • As someone who has two retired teachers as parents I can identify with this, despite not being a teacher myself. I posted about why I COULDN’T be a teacher once – it was a big tongue-in-cheek granted, but it involved experiences I had witnessed myself like me and my mum going on holiday (in school holiday time – more expensive than any other time) and how she would always run into a pupil or parent or fellow teacher on the plane or at the airport or – even worse – on the beach! That’s not even touching on the more serious stuff you mention here. I don’t envy teachers their jobs, but I admire the hell out of what they do.

  • Sara

    I understand the sentiment behind this, I really do. My mom taught for 38 years, my best friend is a teacher, and several other friends are teachers. I’ve heard about the heartbreak and the work and the exhaustion and the bladder infections and the fact that you are always on. However, getting two months off of work IS a perk. I’m not judging you or assuming that your work is easy because I say that it must be nice to have the summer off.

    Let’s look at the numbers. Average teacher salary in California is $59,825 (I’m using CA because it’s where I live and getting data from teacherportal.com) and the school year is 180 days (down to 175 in some places, but we’ll be conservative). Assuming a ten hour day, that’s $33.24 an hour, which is not too shabby. And it’s also nice that once you get tenure you don’t have the same kinds of concerns about job security that non-teachers have. Is teaching hard, but vitally important work? F*ck yes. Should many teachers be paid more? Absolutely. Should there be some sort of merit increase for good teachers? Of course. Is the system of rewards for teachers entirely screwed up? Yup. But it’s also kind of awesome that you get two months to decompress (or look for another line of work if you’re fed up with teaching).

    I work in non-profit where my first job paid me $27K a year and I worked ten hour days five days a week about 230 days a year. But is it nice that I haven’t had to pay to go to a museum in over a decade? Yup, it is.

  • I mean this is why I love you. And why your students are so lucky to have you as their teacher every year.

  • I love you! You are an amazing teacher and I wish everyone knew just how hard it is to be a teacher!

  • Amen!

    Whereas many other jobs can be left at the office/store at the end of the day, a teacher is always a teacher. We are always “on,” because there stands a good chance that a little pair of eyes is watching us when we’re at the mall or grocery store or movie theatre. Just as we emotionally-commit to them for 10 months a year, they emotionally commit to us … forever. I *still* think back to my K-12 teachers and think of them as mentors and role models, and I believe that to be true of my students when they think back to the year we spent together.

    Summers are professional development time, recovery time, and prep time to get ready for the next grueling 10 months.

    That said, I wouldn’t trade my profession and calling for anything. Even as I choose to stay at home with my baby now, I am to my very core a teacher, and forever that is what I will be, especially to the hundreds of kids that I’ve taught and worked with. And in many ways, I am so psyched to one day return to the classroom if it’s meant to be. :)

  • Basically brilliant.

    I was a high school English teacher for 3 years and I can say with relative certainty that teaching is a soul-crushing job. I spent most of my young adult life preparing to become a teacher, but the bureaucratic education machine has completely crushed me and I know it’s not something I can go back to. I had horrible experiences teaching, but I held onto my idealism and optimism (until I got laid off). I now teach ESL in South Korea — which I find to be more laid back, surprisingly.

    My main problems with teaching in America were the other teachers, the under-appreciation, and the misconceptions. It’s always awesome when a child’s parent yells at you for not having their essay graded two days after it was turned in. Never mind that you have 200 students, never mind that you have a full-time job and no work time allotted for grading, never mind that sometimes you’d like to have a damn life.

    Anyway, I can sympathize.

  • Erin

    I taught for 4 years and it was every thing you said. Now that I am out of the teaching field I do respect that everyone could use a little more vacation haha. But more than anything I hate that everyone assumes that teachers get a few months off every year to do nothing. Every summer I had off while I was teaching was spent working in another job to earn more income or expand my skill set. Most of my teacher friends teach summer school. What I hate most is that people ASSUME they know what it means to have a vacation or be a teacher. I don’t presume to know anyone else’s job and I would appreciate if others wouldn’t jump to assume they know what it is like to be a teacher.

  • 180-10-10=160/5=33.333 weeks

    Contract days180-10 days sick time-10 days vacation=160 divided by 5 equals 33.33 weeks. That is 8 months and on week. That is the number of days a teacher is required to work…….yep less that’s a full term pregnancy.

    So yes good teachers work more. All good employees do.
    Average worker 52 weeks- 2 week sick- 2weeks vacation=48 weeks 11 monthes

    • annalisa

      When you say 180 contract days (which can be up to 190 in some states) you are talking about 36 – 38 weeks. And you cannot subtract the vacation days(which I am assuming you are meaning the breaks for holidays) because these are not included in the 180 day contract.
      If you subtract the sick days (which some are only give between 5-8 per year) then you have anywhere between 170 to 185 per year which equals about 9 months or slightly more per year…if teacher take all of their sick days each year, which rarely happens….mostly because we are told not to.
      So yes, if you are an average worker you do work more days. But understand that teachers are only paid for those 9 months instead of the 11 months others are paid. The main reason school is not year round is because no one is willing to pay teachers for the extra two months.

  • [...] things to say about this, but my dear friend Brandy (who was also part of the conversation) wrote this post and it sums it up so much better than I could. Please read [...]

  • What does it say about me that THIS POST has lit the fire under my ass to get back in school and finally get my teaching credentials. Because in all of that, the only thing I can read is hope. Hope that I can make a difference.

    Thank you.

  • [...] added with Brandy‘s post on teachers, has inspired me to finally get my shit together. But the reason that [...]

  • My wife is a teacher. Special Ed…. and this made me laugh

  • Patricia

    I tell my non-teaching friends that teaching is like hosting a birthday party for 25 kids you’ve never met before. the party will last 5-6 hours, and you have to keep the attendees engaged for the entire time. No one will come to relieve you, so if your eyeballs are turning yellow because you have to pee so bad, just hold it. At the end of the party, there will be a test to see if the attendees learned anything. And a superior may drop in at any time to see if things are going smoothly. That evening you will hear from two parents who are dissatisfied that their child didn’t win a prize and what kind of a mother are you anyway?
    Wonderful blog – I taught for 42 years before hanging it up. wouldn’t have considered any other profession, but I am enjoying setting my own schedule and being able to vacation in October.

  • I need to introduce you to my husband and have you spend some time with him during the summer. That one knows how to relax and put his job (teaching) out of his mind. (I honestly don’t know how he does it, but he does it.)

    I get what you mean in all this because I live with a teacher and see how much he works (he teaches high schoolers which is definitely different than teaching the younger kids).

    I will say though that working at a non-profit can be pretty stressful and I personally can’t take much time off (because we’re always short-handed, can’t hire more staff due to budgets, and yes our budgets are always cut too). Plus I have to put up with ridiculous adults who make 5-year olds look/seem a heck of a lot more mature.

    Being a teacher is hard work and I always get pissed when some people make it out to be nothing. I could go on and on about this but you pretty much nailed it!

  • EFF, YES! I’ve had a lot of friends who either are or have been teachers and I cannot even imagine the shit they go through.

  • A fellow teacher sent me this, and all I can say is – Sing it, Sista!!! This is so perfectly said. I want to reach through my computer and hug you! Instead, I’m going to share this with everyone I can!

  • M

    You left out the part about teachers having a “paid vacation!” I get 10 paychecks…oh ya, “paid holidays too!” I get paid for 183 days per year…not counting the 20 days I put in moving to my new school…oh, and the U-Haul I paid for to move eveything I own in the classroom because when I got hired there were two tables in my classroom…Welcome to your classroom- now teach kindergarten!

  • Fantastic post! My mom is a teacher and I’ve seen my whole life what a thankless job it can be. I think the only unfortunate thing is that some people don’t take their teaching jobs as seriously as you and my mom do. I have friends who recently graduated from college who only got teaching degrees because they wanted to “have the summers off.” They don’t care much about their students and spend neither extra time in the classroom nor extra money on supplies. I think that’s very sad and I wish there was a way to reward teachers like you who take the job of educating children seriously. It’s probably the most important job out there!!

  • PS

    You are so full of yourself. There are millions of people working harder than you are, under much more grueling circumstances, and sometimes not even getting paid for it (Eg: Social Workers, Teachers in third world countries, missionaries, soldiers). I don’t hear them complaining.

    The problem is that you want compensation and the perks of the job, yet be treated like a martyr and given the glory and salutes. Yes, you work a job where you work 10 months and get 2 months off. That is a perk and it MUST be nice, no matter which way you want to look at it.

  • Allison Blass

    What I notice reading these comments and also from watching my mom, who is a teacher, is that most teachers don’t take the full two months off. There is actually a lot of prep work that goes into closing down a year and preparing for a new year. At least, the good teachers prepare. I suppose some crappy teachers don’t. And I think teachers regularly work much longer hours than the average person with the same years of experience. The hours that a teacher works is equivalent to a VP or something… but they are not being compensated accordingly.

    Having two months could be consider justification for working teachers to the bone. It’s not a benefit, per se, it’s actually required to keep teachers. The amount of hours that a teacher works versus another type of employee is more or less the same. Teachers who are crappy and leave early, don’t prep well or return tests on time? They probably really get a good deal.

    But teachers who spend countless extra hours during 10 months of the year are basically making all of that up during the summer. They aren’t getting two extra months… they’re breaking even.

  • Catherine

    I get where you are coming from. But not all teaching jobs are difficult.

    And what about social workers and nurses just to name a few. My friend whose a nurse on a children’s cancer ward has to watch children die and then go back to work. Or deal with children when their parents start visiting less and less. Teaching is difficult, but not the most difficult, heart wrenching job out there. And those other jobs don’t get summer breaks. Just something to keep in mind.

  • Welp, the lesson I get from some of the commenters regarding this post is- you can kindly tell them to shut up but they might not.

  • Olga

    Thank you for making me cry. My husband is a teacher in Puerto Rico. We have to save for over 2 yrs on his salary to take our first vacation. After we posted some pictures on FB an idiot’s comment was that “good, at least he is not doing nothing at home for 2 months”. I thank you for expresing in words what i think but didnt know how to write it. Thank you. Thank you thank you.

  • Johanna

    Good post!

    I will say that this is being a teacher in the US, in Norway this is largely not the case. Teachers, luckily, have it much better.

  • Melissa

    To Jen,
    Any teacher who doesn’t teach band, music, athletics, art, and theatre, may be able to take 2 months to recover from the school year. The rest of them spend their summers running music camps, band camps, athletic camps, art seminars and Theatre camps.

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