Originally this blog was going to be about adjusting to real life again and not being a stay at home mom. As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been taking a class in order to renew my license and have had to leave my son with various babysitters all week, which while good practice for the fall, has made me a bit of a nervous wreck. However, I got a comment on yesterday’s blog and rather than comment back, since I think my comments would be longer than many of my posts, I thought I’d address some of the issues it brings up. This entry is not meant to be a rebuttal to my good friend, who I know did not mean any of her comments as a criticism of me, but rather to clear up some general misconceptions many non-teachers I know seem to have about the profession I’ve chosen.
For years I have been fighting with friends about my job. Anytime I complain about my job and how stressed out I get, someone inevitably tells me that I don’t get to complain because I get my summers off. This is probably the one comment that pisses me off the most. Yes, I get about 9 1/2 weeks of “vacation” each summer. I’m sure for many people who have been working in an office job for nine years (this will be my tenth year teaching), it really seems unequal when compared to their 3-4 weeks of vacation. However, unlike my friends who have office jobs, I have never put in a 40 hour work week. An easy work week for me, is a minimum of 50 hours, 40 of which are spent at school, the other 10 are spent at home grading. With extra-curriculars and all my grading, my normal work week adds up to closer to 60 hours a week. When I used to do drama, it was not uncommon to average 70 hours a week during a play. So while many of my friends are working about 1880 hours each year*, on average, even with my nearly 10 weeks of summer vacation, I put in about 2200*, which is 8.5 weeks more work every year.
In addition to never working a 40 hour week, I can probably count the number of times I have worked a 5 day week on one hand. During the school year, my work week almost always includes both Saturday and Sunday, often times five to six hours of straight work on one or both days.
As an added bonus, when I my husband and I decided we wanted to start a family, I had to save all of my sick days to cover my maternity leave. Teachers do not get any sort of paid maternity leave. If we want to take the time off, we have to use our sick days or go unpaid. In the past two years, I have taken exactly 1/2 a sick day and this was actually for an OB appointment that required me to be at the doctor’s office for two hours and have blood work done. I had to take a half day. With all of that, I got six weeks paid maternity leave. My sister-in-law, who has been at her job for less than a year and a half, gets 8 weeks paid maternity leave. My sister, who had been at her company for 7 months, got four weeks paid. Plus, when she was put on bed rest for the month before her son was born, her short term disability kicked in and she was paid the entire time. If that had happened to me, it would have come out of my sick time and I would have gotten only two weeks paid maternity leave. Neither of these two ladies had to spend one of their sick days.
Which, all brings me to my summer “vacation.” By the time I actually get it, I have worked the equivalent of eight and a half weeks more than most of my non-teacher friends. Until last summer, my summers were always spent teaching summer school. Which meant that I actually only got six weeks of “vacation.” One summer because I had to take a class for re-certification, I taught one session of summer school from 8-noon, the second session from 12:30-3:30 and then had class from 4-6:30 pm. I did this every day for a month. On top of the actual hours I put in, I had homework to do for my class and to grade for my students. But, I did get that six week “vacation” afterwards. Last year I didn’t get teach because for the first time in nine years I had a real vacation planned. This year I didn’t teach because I have a new baby. I don’t know what future summers will bring.
I’m probably a little selfish for wanting my summers to actually be a break from the educational world, but I do. I keep up with the world of literature by reading constantly. Despite my teaching load, I usually manage to get at least a good 30-40 books read each year, most in the summer. I am in no ways shirking my responsibility to provide my students with a quality education. Each year I attend lectures and workshops in order to update my teaching methods and improve my management skills. I present at conferences. I am a life-long learner and love to learn new things. What I have a problem with, however, is having to take a required number of classes in a restricted amount of time in order to keep my job. Not because I’m lazy, or don’t want to learn, but because I am already intrinsically motivated to learn and generally learn way more outside these required classes than I ever do inside them. Then again, I may be the exception to the rule. I know within my department I am the norm, but I’m sure a great many teachers in the world haven’t picked up a book just to learn something new for themselves since their last required class.
This entry is already long and probably more than a little ranty, so I won’t even delve into what I should/shouldn’t be teaching kids or their need to understand literary analysis as high school sophomores. I’ll save that for another blog. Right now I have two sets of lesson plans to completely revamp (for classes I’ve already taught, because I’m always improving them) and I have to work on my AP syllabus for approval from the College Board. Even on my summer “vacation,” work prevails.
*This figure takes into account 3 weeks vacation and holidays. The figure I came up with for the hours I work is 38 weeks–the averaging teaching year–at a little less than 60 hours a week. My figure may actually be a little lower or a little higher depending on the year.