We don’t work in the summer?

I’ve been hearing colleagues around the college say, in very public meetings, that they don’t work in the summer. That may be true for some, but, as much as I wish it were true, it isn’t for me or most of the teachers — both full- and part-timers — I know at the college.

The school year is so busy with preparing for classes, helping students, grading, department and other meetings, advising student clubs, and other activities, duties, and responsibilities that there is little time for much else. Summer is the only real time we have to create new curriculum, to rethink our pedagogies, to stay current in our disciplines by reading and studying. During the summer, we frequently redo our syllabi and rework our reading lists. During the summer we have time to reflect on our expectations for students and reconsider our grading rubrics.

So, while I don’t wish to doubt any of my colleagues, I think they are not being completely honest with themselves when they say they don’t work during the summer. Teaching is a life’s work, an art of balancing our content expertise with our knowledge and experience of being a human being; we are part mentor, part coach, part enforcer, part performer, part counselor, and all educator. We can always improve our teaching and  every teacher I know continues the work of improving year round.

It is true that summer offers a break from daily classroom teaching, but teaching is a cycle and the summer is as much a part of that cycle as the beginning of the semester and finals week. To say otherwise, is a disservice to all the work that so many of us do in June, July, and early August. It also lends itself to the very criticisms we hear so often lately, about the public sector costing too much — if we really aren’t working in the summer, why should we expect society to pay us for it? When other folks don’t work, they generally don’t get paid. We shouldn’t expect anything different. Many (perhaps most?) part-timers work during the summer and don’t get any explicit pay for it. Those of us lucky enough to be full-time, tenure-track or tenured, do get paid during the summer and most of us definitely work for it.

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2 responses to “We don’t work in the summer?

  • Anne Cassia

    Interesting – I’ve never heard an actual teacher say they don’t work over the summer, only those who don’t teach (“Oh, you get summer off and you get paid, how nice).
    Also, technically the pay we receive over summer is for the other nine months when we are under contract – we have that pay spread over the other months. So no, we are not paid to work over the summer (nor are we under contract, which is important to those of us who are staunch union supporters). I had the same experience as a part-timer – one school distributed our pay so that we received a check every month, even in summer, and if we taught summer school, we received additional pay. Another school only sent us paychecks for the actual months we were working – the total amounts ended up about the same, but in one case we had smaller monthly pay over more months. The truth is that though we might work over the summer, we are NOT paid to work during that time; we are simply receiving the pay for the other months. Sorry if I’m not being quite clear…it’s been a long day/semester…

  • Leilah McCarthy

    Thank you so much for posting this. I don’t know how many people will read it, but I get so annoyed and frustrated with people who say or imply that I have the summer off just because I don’t teach classes. It’s nice to hear someone explain to people that, yes, teachers really do work during the summers.

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