Sometimes you just have to write…
If I hear one more person say “But you teachers get such nice long vacations!” I think I’ll scream!
Yes, we get long vacations: I have five weeks this summer at one of my jobs, six at the other. And that’s not counting two weeks at Christmas, and a week each in October, February and May.
But I’ve been doing a bit of arithmetic. I work almost every weekend during the school year. As much as possible I try to limit it to just one day, either Saturday or Sunday, not both. If it’s a particularly busy time of the year, though, I may work both days.
I’m not a particularly efficient worker: I take breaks between tasks to peruse Facebook or respond to tweets. Or my mind just wanders.
Let’s assume I work only one day each weekend, and only 30 of the approximately 38 weeks in the school year. And let’s assume that I only actually put in four hours on that day: a low guess, and it doesn’t count all the hours I put in during the one-week vacations and in the evenings all week, but let’s just see where this estimate takes us. It comes to a total of 120 hours of work per year.
I only work, at least on paper, 80 percent of full-time equivalent: 40 percent at each job. Let’s assume that full time means 40 hours a week. In that case, I work 32 hours a week.
At that rate, I am working unpaid for 3.75 weeks over the course of the year! And that’s certainly an underestimation: it’s not counting the time I put in evenings almost every day, for a few days during most of the one-week vacations, and most summers.
I do prep work or mark papers most weekday evenings. If we assume just one hour an evening for four evenings a week for just 30 weeks, that comes to an additional 120 hours, so that doubles the free weeks I put in to seven and a half weeks of unpaid work! (I should add, of course, that part of my pay is for the time I spend preparing and grading and attending meetings. It’s hard to figure out how much of this evening or vacation work falls under that part of my pay and how much is additional and unpaid.)
In any case, the word “vacation” really only fully applies to the students we teach. We, the teachers, work at least part of every vacation.
To illustrate, here’s a list of what I have on my plate right now:
Job #1: I teach at an international secondary school offering the International Baccalaureate Diploma. That school is already on vacation.
Job #2: I teach at a college of applied sciences up in Leeuwarden, in the English department, training future English teachers. That school is in its last week: a test week for resits.
What I really want to do this summer:
I’m not writing all this because I want you, dear reader, to feel sorry for me. Don’t! I chose to be a teacher, and I could stop if I wanted to (Boy, that sounds like I’m an addict!). Or I could do less preparation, plan less, put less energy into it. I choose to put the time in and, most of the time, I like what I do.
But in order to continue to like it, and to continue to do a decent job at it, I need my vacation every summer. I sometimes think that my sanity is a little too dependent on that few weeks of freedom. Every year, as the summer approaches, I find myself questioning why I ever got into teaching. After a few weeks free in the summer, I always find my enthusiasm back. So I think I speak for every teacher here: we need “such nice long vacations”!