Summer vacation is almost here. I’m pretty excited at the prospect of 8 weeks away from work. It does also mean, however, that it’s time to steel myself against the inevitable snarky comments from people with year round jobs. I try to keep my eye rolls to a minimum, but I honestly might lose it if I hear another person mutter indignantly about how THEY never get 3 months off each summer (somehow people always exaggerate the length of summer by at least a month), or imply that I don’t work very hard, that my job is so easy that monkeys could do it, or that my contribution to society is somehow lessened by the number of vacation days I get. It is true that I have more days off than the average working adult and I understand that jealousy can make people rude, but in a society where education-based professionals have lost the respect of the majority, where teachers are perceived as freeloading slackers, and public education in general is under constant fire, I’d like to state a few basic truths about my job.
1) Let it be known that I actually do not get paid for my summer vacation! My salary is conveniently split into 12 monthly instalments, but the pay is only for days worked and regular sick days / stat holidays. This means that my monthly take-home is probably quite a bit less than yours (or those with equivalent year-round professionals). You can rest easy knowing that your tax dollars are not funding my day at the beach. And if you want to budget to live off of 10 months of work each year instead of 12, then you too can partake of the same summer joys I do.
2) When school is in session, I work significantly more hours per week than I am actually paid for, since many of my work duties fall outside of the normal workday. Its true that I sometimes am able to get away right at contract time, but I also am very familiar with the pain of working 10 hr days (and only getting paid for 7). Maybe sometime we can bond over stress differences between salaried and hourly jobs (remember pre-graduation when you actually got paid for each hour you worked? Me to! Aren't we are in the same boat here?)
3) Contrary to some misinformation, I am actually observed and evaluated several times a year, expected to be more than adequate at my job, and get into trouble when I’m not. I admit there are union issues that make it more than is reasonably difficult to fire the bad teachers, but the majority of us are working really hard to do our job well, paying for continuing education courses, and implementing new strategies as suggested by our yearly reviews. If you want to have a conversation about ways to change the hiring/firing rules, then sure, lets go there. If you want to complain how all teachers are sitting around getting paid your tax dollars to do the bare minimum, then I’m out.
Please understand that I’m not trying to start a “who works harder” debate, here. I’m sure you work long and thankless hours. But I do too! I know it sucks when work feels relentless and you’d do just about anything for a week off. I get that. Please just remember that my 8 week break is only a thin silver lining to a demanding (and rewarding) job. If it makes you so jealous that you start feeling the need to put me down about it, then maybe its time for you to rethink your occupation. As a speech and language therapist, I’ve got lots of options of where I could work: schools, hospitals, clinics, rehab centres, early intervention groups, private practice... the list goes on. Working in the schools was a choice for me - one YOU could make too. If you don’t want to, then next time you want to gripe about my summer vacation, think about all the reasons your job is better….. and tell me all about that instead. I promise you, I'd prefer it.