Teachers Don’t Get Vacation

Lezlie Lowe, with the assistance of NSTU President Shelly Morse, provided excellent insight into some of the realities of teaching in today’s Chronicle Herald. I’d like to add a little bit more detail to her points.

Teachers don’t get vacation. True, it depends on how vacation is defined, but for most full time, permanent employees a vacation is paid time away from work. Using that definition, teachers don’t get one day of vacation!

As Lowe pointed out, teachers are paid for 195 days of work. Of those, students are expected to be present for 186 days. The other days are broken down as follows 1 for organization and set up, 3 for assessment and evaluation, and 5 for professional development.

Teachers may get great breaks, but they are in fact mandatory, unpaid days, not vacation. It’s true that teachers do get paid through the summer months, but they don’t get paid FOR the summer months. The pay for their 195 days, is divided equally over 26 pay periods.

So, that doesn’t seem to bad, right? Well, maybe not if a teacher’s partner is also a teacher – I can’t speak for that situation. However, in my case my partner is in retail. So, when March Break rolls around for example, those people in retail who have children often want to take that time off for trips south and elsewhere. Since we have no children, it seems fair to let them take that time, but when do we go south? It would be wonderful to be like people in other jobs who can, for the most part, choose when they take their (paid) vacation, but that’s not the case for teachers. Now, I’m not complaining about having the summers available – but it would be great to take a vacation in February or April for example! In order to do that though, teachers have to apply to take unpaid leave. So, not only would a teacher encounter the expense of the trip, they would have to add to it the extra expense of those days without pay.

Now, lets look at those nine days for which teachers are paid, but students are at home. One day of organization is simply not enough for any teacher or school to get ready for their new students in September. As a result, every teacher I know goes in to their school for several days prior to the “organization” day for which they are paid. So, they are there during their mandatory, unpaid days.

Then there are three days for assessment and evaluation. These generally coincide with report card preparation and end of terms. The process of assessing student work is ongoing and takes up a great deal of time outside the “9 to 3 day” that Lowe mentions in her article. Completing report cards is a massive task for any teacher and the three days allocated for A&E is but a drop in the bucket compared to the time required to assess and evaluate student work and prepare report cards.

Finally there are the five days allocated for professional development. Let me ask you how many days of professional development your doctor, chiropractor or dentist participates in each year? My guess is that unless you’re a doctor, chiropractor or dentist, you have no idea. The reason is that you make an appointment with those professionals, and the date you’re given is a date that person is in the office, so you have no way to really know when they aren’t in the office. On the other hand, you expect your child’s teacher to be in their classroom every Monday to Friday from September through June, and when a day rolls around that is allocated for that teacher to learn some new things, to find out what is happening in the world of education outside their room, school or district, you – as a parent – are often upset because it’s “another day off” for the teacher. Would you go to a doctor, dentist or chiropractor who doesn’t keep up with new developments in their field? Not likely. Why then would you send your child to a teacher who doesn’t keep up with what is new in their profession? Unless of course you expect them to do it during their mandatory, unpaid time off?? So, this year, take a look at the school calendar and see that your schools and school boards have already booked your child for 186 appointments between September and the end of June.

A final thought… your doctor, dentist and chiropractor don’t attend to 25 patients, who each have different needs, simultaneously for 5 hours every day. If they did, they’d need some mandatory, unpaid time off as well.