I'm going to lay all the cards on the table: summer was about 95% of the reason I decided to pursue a job in teaching. The other 5% was that I was earning a BA degree in English literature and that's not a particularly high-demand field in 2001. I can go on and on about how I care about kids and love seeing them learn and grow. Yes, that's true, and while that's the reason I stay in the job it has less to do with my choice to become a teacher than most other young teachers will admit.
I grew up as the child of a high school teacher father and mother who was head secretary of a high school main office. That meant summers as a family. While we didn't go on vacations--we were at least together. We happened to be together working on our family farm in central Oregon, but it was a darn good way for a family to be. And it wasn't just summers when we could be together. I saw that as educators, my parents had the opportunity to also participate in the lives of my brother and I (as much as we'd let them). They could go to my brother's away football games and weekend basketball tournaments, and they'd come to my FFA conventions or speech competitions which I now realize after coaching speech must have be stupefyingly boring for them. Nonetheless, on our days off, they were there. And because they were in it, they valued education--which made us value it as well.
So now I work something around 180 days a year--according to my contract. Sure, we all know it's more than that. The contract doesn't measure the weekend work, the evenings of grading and planning, or the extra hours we all put in even during our "breaks." The contract didn't mention the days I spent outside my 180 to sit, sweating, in the cramped book storage room to box and inventory all 11,000 books in my English department or the fact that half of each day of my Christmas break is spent giving feedback on student essays. It didn't mention the extra not-for-pay training days Tom will probably end up investing in August or the week most of us will spend getting our classrooms ready for the next crop. Plus, every time I turn around, it seems like I'm being asked to do one more thing without pay--just because it is what our school or our students need. Despite what you might assume, I'm not complaining about that at all--that's another part of the job I knew about going into it because I'd seen my parents do it.
I used to bristle when my college friends, now engineers, businessmen, lawyers, or entrepreneurs would jab at me about all the "paid vacation" I get as a teacher. I'd try to educate them--no, I'm a contractor, I only work for 38 weeks a year because that's what my contract states; I get paid 12 months a year because they spread my 38 weeks of paychecks out over 12 months to make it easier for people to manage...you chose your desk job, I chose mine...a ramble usually culminating with "You get your two weeks, if I'm gone two weeks, let's talk about how sub plans are more work than being there...I don't get paid vacation at all as a teacher!"
But, now that I have three little boys of my own (the oldest turns six and kindergartner in September, the middle one is three on Monday, and the baby is just over two months), I realize that my paid vacation has nothing to do with a check from the district.
And my paid vacation starts today!