Probably the most persistent and pernicious story about teachers is that most of us chose this profession largely because of the paid summer vacation.
First, I’ve never met anyone who was motivated to teach based on the time they spend away from kids. And second, no school in this country pays teachers not to work. None.
With few exceptions, teachers are contracted for a fixed number of days (for most in the overly-large school district it’s 193). The finance office simply divides the pay into twelve equal installments.
Which is a good thing. The first few years I taught, the district only paid us during the 9-1/2 months we worked. More than a few of my colleagues with poor budgeting skills found themselves running out of money in August, with the first check of the new school year several weeks away (we were paid biweekly).
Anyway, regardless of the pay structure, I never cared for the long summer. Most years, I was ready to get back to the kids and my colleagues about two weeks into the break. Or I got involved with workshops, taking courses, or working on curriculum projects.
During my graduate program, I did a practicum in which we designed a year-round program for a local school district. Ten weeks of class time with three week breaks (and optional activities) between. It made a whole lot more sense – logistically, educationally, practically – than the schedule followed by almost every school in this country.
The district actually adopted and used our plan. For about four years. Then a new school board switched back to the old schedule based on what they said was parent complaints. More likely it had to do with the high cost of air conditioning schools in the summer heat of Southern Arizona.
Yesterday was the first day of the new school year for most districts in this area. Always my most exciting time of the year as I resumed collaborating with my colleagues and began working with my new students.
That optimistic feeling of renewal is one reason why I’ve always believed we celebrate New Year’s Day at the wrong time of year. There is very little positive about the middle of winter and so much more in the fall.
So, happy new year to all my friends who are back in the classroom to begin the learning experience with a new group of students. After the past two, very chaotic years, I hope this is a rewarding one for everyone.
The photo at the top is from a summer learning experience in Calvert County, at the exceedingly green marshes of Flag Ponds.