This may be a little known fact to some, but school teachers don’t exactly get three months of vacation.
The way I see it, our vacation is really a way to add in some of the overtime hours that we racked up during the school year.
Let me explain. If my teaching day ends at 4:00, I have put in 8.5 hours at school. Only 50 minutes of that was allotted for preparation and grading. If I assign one essay and spend 20 minutes per student on grading it, that will take 720 minutes (12 hours) for one class of 36 – remember, no one has class sizes of 30 anymore. if I have five classes, that’s 60 hours of extra work per essay assignment. That’s another entire work week, plus overtime.
As I head into my second week of ‘vacation’, I’m finally starting to relax. I’m not hearing any bells buzzing in my ears, telling me when to stop and go. I’ve stowed my book bags in my home office, willing to let them sit until August. I’ve gone to the gym and grocery store mid-day, I’ve washed all my coffee travel mugs, and am beginning to make my way through the stacks of magazines that have built up since December.
But the best part about being a teacher isn’t all of those things; it’s not even the time payback.
I really think the secret is that teachers have the best of both worlds.
I’ve always been a ‘working-outside-the-home mom’. I’m not complaining-we made that choice in order to live where we do (California), get health insurance benefits, save for retirement and our children’s college, and to have the ability to live off of two incomes. I don’t know what it’s like to be a stay-at-home mom, but I imagine parts of it are pretty great.
I also imagine there are parts of it that are really, really hard.
The loveliness of being a teacher isn’t just about having fun in the classroom, or having a few weeks off in the summer. It isn’t about having my own child at school for three years, personally knowing all her teachers, or having a place outside my house to store all my books.
What I find delicious and at the same time difficult is the transition between being a ‘work-outside-the-home’ mom and being home all day. I say it’s my compromise for all the missed walks to and from school while they were little, the lunches I forgot to pack, and the field trips I couldn’t go on. It’s my way of making up for not being the ‘science’ or ‘library’ mommy in their classroom, and for having to send store bought cookies for their birthday celebration.
Summertime is my time to not only catch up on the ‘to-do’ lists, but also to do things with my kids that I can’t squeeze in during the school year- like long walks at dusk, talking about what’s important. Riding our bikes. Spending hours in the library looking for a perfect book. Making that cake recipe that takes an entire day. Swimming and reading at the pool. Wandering around a museum. Road trips to anywhere. Lying on the grass for a cool evening baseball game.
For me, working-outside-the-home makes these moments just a little sweeter-it makes summertime special.
Nothing is better payback than that.