Summer for Educators

1898 photograph of a singing class at a "...
1898 photograph of a singing class at a “vacation school”, what in modern terminology would probably be a summer camp. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most people think that those of us in education have the summer “off.”  I’ve written about this before.  It comes up often when I talk to non-education people.  My response to people who ask, “Don’t you have the summer off?” is “Sort of.”  I can count on one hand summers that I’ve truly had off, where I didn’t have much of anything to prepare for the coming school year and I could truly just relax for a significant chunk of time.  Every summer since I became a teacher 7 years ago has involved prepping for new courses, going to conferences, and sometimes managing administrative work.  Despite having that work to do, I appreciated being able to do it when and where I wanted.  I could sit out on the deck and read, plan, think, etc.  I could hang out on the couch, work a couple of hours and then spend the rest of the day doing something else.  It does have its perks.

I remember the days of not having summer to myself at all.  When I was in the corporate world, of course, summer didn’t quite hold the special place it does in education.  People took vacation at random times of the year, so it wasn’t like half the office left for three months. Summer was pretty much like any other time of year, except the weather was better. No one resented people who were on vacation during summer or any other time.  In my previous job, I was on the staff side and I also ran a summer program, so not only did I have to work in the summer, my work load was, in some ways, harder than it was during the school year. I found that stressful.  And it didn’t help when faculty showed up at the beginning of the year and asked me how my summer was, which I read as, “What fun things did you do that didn’t have anything to do with work?” Maybe I was projecting, but that’s how I felt.

So this summer is the first summer is about 5 years that I am actually “on the books” to work.  I’m required to work and there is much to do.  I’ve done almost no course planning and have spent a large chunk of time tackling a wide range of administrative tasks.  But it’s still been at a pace that makes it feel like summer.  We have reduced hours and in order to use all my vacation time (which I actually won’t be able to do), I’ve taken 4-day weekends every week.  Much of the rest of the staff has been able to do similar things.  It feels a lot better than my previous experience working during the summer at an educational institution.  Maybe other staff don’t feel that way, but certainly, the workplace feels relaxed and simultaneously productive.

We still have a couple of weeks before the faculty all come back and a week after that, the students return.  Already, there’s a feeling that things are ramping up a little bit, but I’m going to try to revel in the relaxed atmosphere for just a little longer.