Summertime Payback

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.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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  1. Beautifully said, Mama W.

    With all the negativity out there about teachers, I strongly suggest you send part of this lovely post to your newspaper’s editorial/opinion page.

    Xx kisses from MN.

  2. I’m a work outside the home mom, too, but never have had the summers off – other than the vacation. I worked for the same reasons, the ease of life the second income brings and until I started writing I enjoyed my work. NOW… I would rather be a writer all day long. I am ever amazed at us women and how we find hew aspects of ourselves to rejoice in. I hope you enjoy your summer and enjoy those lush extra moments. The picture of you and your kids, as ever, is beautiful, You all have lovely smiles.

  3. Happy Summer to you! I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around going back to school. I can’t imagine putting in the hours I did before I had kids. I would usually get in around 6 aM and come home between 6 and 6:30 at night and then I was there all weekend. How DO you do it and still have energy for your kids?

  4. I can relate to your post from my mom’s point of view. She is a receptionist as a school. Though she doesn’t have all the ‘overtime’ she is the sub coordinator also. So she has to wake up early for her day to go smoothly and check something on the computer to see if teachers have decided during the night that they need a sub etc. So that’s part of her job that she doesn’t get paid for because its off the clock. Anyway its is her after retirement job and she says its the best of both too. She gets a paycheck and a whole summer off that she is flexible travel, and see an or keep her grandson. She is visiting me this week 😉

    1. Your mom sounds like she’s got a great deal-except for all the hidden overtime, of course. Education really needs some changes to keep people excited and motivated to do this hard and important work!

  5. Jennifer… I too am/was a teacher. I completely understand… my first year teaching (two years ago) … I had no clue of ALL the extra work people do not see or rather take for granted… or maybe assume little elves do it all? Happy Summer!!

    1. Carla, did you quit teaching? The first three years are the hardest, and then every time I change grade/subject I find there’s a three-year curve all over again! I wish there were little elves…

  6. i love that! i am in portland and i hear there are no teaching jobs opening anytime soon – which i find sad because i would love to get my certificate for all the reasons you mentioned. okay, not all the extra hours during the school year, but to be able to both work outside the home also be a stay-at-home mom too! someday, maybe if things change . . . or i move!

    1. I wouldn’t let the job market get in your way…there are jobs, but they might not be permanent. It’s not all bad, though, because you’d get to see what grades/subjects you like!

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