Friday, February 21, 2014

Year 4: Week 23 – Working During Break

For the past week, I’ve been on mid-winter break. We have a week off in February which may seem excessive, but it really helps get through the drudgery that is winter. Like most teachers I did some work over break, not excessive amounts but I did do a significant amount of work. Teachers aren’t the only people who do work when they are on “break,” but I find that teachers often do more work during these times than people expect.

One of the arguments against teachers getting paid more is that they don’t work the entire year. While it is true that many teachers work a schedule based on the agricultural schedule, and have time off for winter break, spring break, summer break and in my case mid-winter break, there’s other things to keep in mind.

Like most teachers, I don’t have vacation days. This seems like a very logical and reasonable set-up since I have these other breaks, however this can be difficult when trying to coordinate trips with other people who aren’t teachers. The other reality is that many teachers don't treat these breaks like vacations.

Why do teachers work during these breaks?

Some teachers continue to work because they enjoy the work. There are some teachers who would continue to make curriculum and research subjects for the fun of it in there free time even if they weren’t teachers. Some teachers don’t turn off.

Other teachers work over break to keep their heads above water. With limited prep time, many teachers barely have time in their day to grade papers, address students’ social and emotional needs and plan for the next day. For the teachers who have inadequate prep time and work 12-hour days, these breaks provide essential time to catch up and keep pace with the work that needs to be done.

Then there’s teachers like me who are a combination of those two situations. Yes, I continue to work on curriculum and think about teaching just for the fun of it. However I do know how to turn off, though it’s difficult. Rarely is there a span of time when some part of my brain isn’t thinking about teaching.

I also need time to catch up on things. It’s been a crazy year. With being away for paternity leave, having Ollie as part of my life and becoming a department chair, I find that I have just enough time to get done what needs to be done. I guess I’ve always felt that way about teaching. What I need to do manages to just fit in the time that I got. While this is great, having time to work during break gives me a buffer and much needed time to think about what’s next.

I've also been attending to a lot of issues as department chair over break.  A lot of the business of running a school doesn't stop during breaks and many administrators as well as teachers in leaderships positions have to keep working even when the kids aren't at school.  

There are teachers who truly do "break" during break and there are teachers who work part-time jobs during break too. There’s all kinds. While there are many who choose to do work during break, there’s many who have to. For many teachers if they didn’t work the whole year around they wouldn’t be able to be effective as a teacher for the days they officially worked.

We’re not looking for sympathy here, but please watch your assumptions. You don’t know what kind of teaching situation your teacher friends are in. Yes, we have break when you don’t but that doesn't mean we are on vacation.  And yes, we will stop whining on Facebook when our breaks are almost over . . . I can imagine how that can get annoying . . . sorry about that.    

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