The Myth of the Teacher Vacation

I’m a bit late in posting this blog, with an excuse many teachers will recognize. My body waited until the first day of February break to come down with the stomach flu. Somehow it seems teachers can hold it together until they get some down time and then…BAM! It’s literally down time!

While recovering, I was noticing posts from fellow teachers on social media discussing their plans for the week.  Sadly, they were often followed by comments and digs to the effect, “Must be nice to have so many paid vacations.” These are coming from supposed friends! Sure Facebook is often where we post our happy-side to life and more than a few jealousies become evident in comments, but I am often stunned by the resentment shown to teachers for their schedules.

The truth is, YES, I am on February break. But the truth also is, NO, this is not a paid vacation.  I am paid for 180 days of work. This winter break is not a part of those 180 days. Neither was Christmas break or summer break. Now I can see the quick comments to that…Wow, only 180 days?  Must be nice.

Right. I said I am paid for 180 days of work, not that I only work 180 days. If teachers only worked 180 days that might be nice, except no classrooms would ever be set up waiting to embrace your child on the first day of school. Your child’s teacher would never grow in his/her professional learning. Your child’s work would rarely get immediate feedback. No teacher I have ever met has ONLY worked 180 days, but they ONLY get paid for 180 days. (and those can be some long days).

For anyone who is envious of my break, I can assure them it is not a vacation spent in Disney with my family (though I am ecstatic for my friends who are). I am planning professional development sessions for March and April. I am reading: Maine Student Book Award nominees so I can have genuine conversations with students about the books they are reading,  new middle grade and YA books so I can do my best to see that every child finds his/her heart book that ignites a passion for reading, professional books so that I can become more expert in the work I do for my schools. I am writing so that I walk the talk of my teaching. I am working hours and hours on my National Board Certification components.  I am completing my portfolio that I must turn in at the end of the month to demonstrate I have effectively met my goals for the past three years. In between that I have fit in dental appointments for the family and vet appointments for the pets because I can’t take that time off during the 180 days.

But then I must face the critics who think we are overcompensated for only working 180 days. For those, I offer this viral Facebook post by Meredith Menden:

Teachers’ hefty salaries are driving up taxes, and they only work nine or ten months a year! It’s time we put things in perspective and pay them for what they do — babysit!      We can get that for less than minimum wage.
That’s right. Let’s give them $3.00 an hour and only the hours they worked; not any of that silly planning time, or any time they spend before or after school. That would be $19.50 a day (7:45 to 3:00 PM with 45 min. off for lunch and planning — that equals 6-1/2 hours).
So each parent should pay $19.50 a day for these teachers to baby-sit their children. Now how many students do they teach in a day…maybe 30? So that’s $19.50 x 30 = $585 a day. However, remember they only work 180 days a year!!! I am not going to pay them for any vacations.
LET’S SEE….That’s $585 X 180= $105,300 per year. (Hold on! My calculator needs new batteries).
What about those special education teachers and the ones with Master’s degrees? Well, we could pay them minimum wage ($7.75), and just to be fair, round it off to $8.00 an hour. That would be $8 X 6-1/2 hours X 30 children X 180 days = $280,800 per year.
Wait a minute — there’s something wrong here!
There sure is! The average teacher’s salary (nationwide) is $50,000.  $50,000/180 days = $277.77 per day / 30 students = $9.25 / 6.5 hours = $1.42 per hour per student — a very inexpensive baby-sitter and they even EDUCATE your kids!)

I’m not fishing for sympathy.  I don’t need it.  I love what I do.  I CHOSE what I do. I knew going in that I wouldn’t retire with a winter home in Florida.  I would stress over how to help send my kids to college. I would always drive used cars. I would use my own salary to buy books, supplies, and even clothes for students. What I didn’t know going in, was how vilified I would be for being a teacher. How I would have to constantly justify what I do and prove to others that I am competent. How I would be held responsible to fix every social ill that befell our children. How I would be disparaged for “so many paid vacations”.

It’s not sympathy I’m looking for. Just kindness. I am happy for you in the life you have chosen for you and your families. I only ask the same in return. For anyone who is envious of all the paid vacations, I can only say… We need more good teachers!

What’s On My Book Radar?

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 9.17.36 AM

Pax is a fox who was rescued as a kit by his boy, Peter. Years later, when war breaks out, Peter’s father enlists and forces Peter to abandon Pax while en route to live with his grandfather.  However, Pax and Peter are (as the Buddhists say) “Two but not two”.   Peter cannot bear to be separated and sets out on a journey to find his beloved friend, but encounters many life lessons along the way.  Pax, who has never lived in the wild must find a way to survive as he patiently awaits his boy’s return. Can their “oneness” overcome the incredible obstacles that separate them?

This is my first MUST READ of 2016.  Pax will leave you thinking long after you close the cover. Sara Pennypacker has created a classic that will be read for years and years!

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