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.