What do teachers do during the summer?

1 Jun

Know why all these loungers are empty? Because all the teachers are still working!

Photo Credit

 

It’s the first day of June! Summer is approaching and it reminded me of some of the most infuriating things that people say to teachers:

  • “Must be nice to get summers off.”
  • “You’re so lucky, you don’t have to work during the summer!”
  • “You’re so lucky, you get Christmas AND March Break off too?!”
  • “It must be great getting off work at 3pm.”
  • “You get to play with kids all day, that’s awesome!”
  • “Sometimes I wish I became a teacher, I love kids.”

All teachers can now join me in a collective sigh of resigned frustration…SIGH.

 

“Must be nice to get summers off,” “You’re so lucky, you don’t have to work during the summer,” “You’re so lucky, you get Christmas AND March Break off?!” 

Christmas, March Break, and Summer breaks are yes, time off for teachers. HOWEVER, most teachers will take courses to update their skills (especially in the public sector where I believe that it’s a requirement). With Montessori teachers, it’s not uncommon for teachers to take a part-time job to supplement their income. Every Montessori school is owned individually so salaries will vary but on the whole, Montessori teacher salaries are low. Most teachers that I know have started at the high 20’s – low 30’s. The salaries usually are not pro-rated (I think that’s the right term), so you are not paid during the summer.

Also, those are our set vacation times, and those are usually the peak times for flying and vacation destinations. You can’t really in good conscious take off a week in February to lie out on a sunny island somewhere.

Teachers are usually officially back to work by mid-August to prepare their classrooms, attend staff meetings, meet the families, etc. Most will have been working well before that to make their year plans, research ways to improve lessons, and get material ready. If you’re a Montessori teacher, you’ll have most likely spent some of your summer making materials and/or spending part of your last paycheque buying materials.

 

“You get to play with kids all day, that’s awesome!”

Teaching is not easy. When I was teaching, I would go to bed going over the day, thinking about what happened, what still needs to be done, my different students, what I could have done differently…then a few hours later I’d wake up and immediately begin going through my day (what I need to remember to bring/prepare that morning, the lessons that I’ll be teaching, which students are away/need extra attention that day, etc.).

 

If all students looked like this kid, would it be great or a bit creepy?

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During the day you feel like you’re constantly ON. Teaching is a unique profession (well, it’s not considered a profession, but should be!) in that your personality truly plays a large part. Children are smart. If you’re not confident, they will zero in on that and you’ll have lost them before you’ve even started! Contrary to popular belief, you are not required to be some freaky smiley happy robot the entire day nor an unflinchingly strict schoolmarm-type…but you may have to learn to fluctuate sanely between the two!

Children, especially the younger ones, need your attention constantly. Honestly, you are with them for more waking hours than their families. So while you’re mostly their teacher, sometimes you also have to be a parent to them.

A teacher’s focus is not just on the students’ academic development. Their social, emotional, physical, and moral development are very important because you want to focus on the whole child. In Montessori, there are many inherent moral lessons in the curriculum (e.g. Grace & Courtesy lessons) and respect for others and the environment is just as important as math and science.

In Montessori, the teacher builds lessons around the individual student. This means that every day, students are receiving different lessons depending on their level of skill and readiness. When I taught elementary, I taught all the “core” subjects: arithmetic, language, geography, botany, zoology, and history. Within each subject, students will be in different places so I would have to keep track of who is learning what and when, and also make sure that they are completing their follow-up work (after I’ve made it up!) and also making sure that they comprehend what they’ve learned.

In addition, Montessori teachers rely on their observations to help them know what the student needs at the time. A part of the day is dedicated to making detailed observation notes on the students. It could be anything from documenting which lesson was presented and their response to the fact that their mother is traveling out of town this week (which may later come in handy in figuring out why the student is acting up).

Oh yeah, and don’t forget that in a Montessori classroom, there are three age levels! So times all of the above by three!

Lunch time rolls around and I…go to the freakin’ washroom! I swear my bladder and appetite became coordinated with the school schedule. It’s not impossible but sometimes inconvenient to go get someone to cover your room while you run to the ladies’. I have a personal theory that there is probably a higher amount of UTI infections in teachers!

Then I’d scarf down my packed lunch and then use the rest of the time marking work, checking parent emails, or prepping stuff for the afternoon.

If there’s a specialty class and all the students are out of the class at once (and at the first school that I taught at, that barely happened since I also had to teach art and gym), that precious hour is dedicated to marking and more lesson prep.

 

“It must be great getting off work at 3pm.”

It’s 3:15pm and dismissal begins. Either you’re on dismissal duty or watching the students who are in after school care until after school actually starts. After that, you’re technically free to leave for the day, but most teachers I know stay later to finish the never-ending marking, prepare lesson materials for the next day, or to run one of their afternoon after-school clubs (in my last school all teachers had to run at least one club).

You may have to prepare an age-appropriate craft for a holiday that’s coming up or write up a field trip note to send home next week.

You get home and you still might have marking to be done for the next day (especially if a large project was due or if you’re teaching older grades whose work is longer and more complicated– Montessori does not use textbooks so it’s more complicated as we don’t have an answer key to refer to all the time).

 

M is for Montessori!

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“Sometimes I wish I became a teacher, I love kids.”

Unfortunately, it takes more than a love for kids to be a teacher, something I learned the hard way my first year teaching. There is so much that goes behind each lesson and each day that you must put in the time and effort to be prepared with Plan A and Plan B (and sometimes Plan C!).

If you just walk into a classroom armed with just your love for kids and enthusiasm, that might work out for a couple hours, even a whole day. But you have the rest of the year (or in Montessori, 3 years) to guide each student to develop academically, socially, and emotionally and that takes your intellect, experience, common sense, and not a little bit of gumption!

 

It’s worth it just for the free fruit, right? 🙂 For the record, I’ve only gotten one apple from a student and it was the SWEETEST thing ever!

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One of my pet peeves are the people who go into teaching because they “didn’t know what else to do.” I think any teacher who takes their job seriously would find this incredibly insulting. That’s not to say any of those people may not end up becoming great teachers (People change and are willing to learn. Plus it’s easy to love those kids!), but to those who are just there for the paycheque and the “summers off” (since they probably aren’t putting in the effort to upgrade their skills or prepare for the upcoming year)…no thanks…no thanks.

I read that teaching has the highest number of people who leave the profession within the first five years of work. If you are there to really teach (and thankfully most teacher I know are!) and don’t believe in coasting just to pick up a paycheque, then teaching is very difficult. But OF COURSE there are of course so many rewarding moments and times when you just feel like there’s nothing else you want to be doing that makes it all worth it!

Wow, I didn’t anticipate such a long post…but there’s a lot more to say about this topic!

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6 Responses to “What do teachers do during the summer?”

  1. thatwritinglady June 2, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    So true! I know that I actually work harder in the summer than I do during the school year–not only am I getting ready for August, I’m also teaching summer camps.

    • Montessori Motherload June 2, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

      Yep, been there! Thanks for visiting and for commenting!

  2. Carla June 4, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    As someone considering a career in teaching I really appreciate the honesty of this post. Thanks for sharing and thanks for all you do as a teacher!

    • Montessori Motherload June 4, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

      Hi Carla! Thanks for the comment. Teaching is very, very rewarding. I hope I’m not turning people off with this post, I just wanted to address all the people who think it just involves “playing with kids all day!” Volunteering in a classroom and chatting with other teachers would be a great way to get a feel for the job! I think one of the main reasons there’s such a large number of new teachers who quit after the 5 years is the lack of support during those first years, so just be aware of that and hopefully you’ll have a supportive admin team that will back you up! Good luck with your decision.

      • miriam May 1, 2014 at 10:56 am #

        hi, ive just finished a care of the child with special needs college course, and this morning i have applied for a montessori course, i am rethinking my decision as i did not know montessori teachers are not paid in the summer, it is a great job, but can be draining and you do need to recharge your batteries.
        Miriam.

      • Montessori Motherload June 23, 2014 at 6:09 pm #

        Congrats on finishing your course, Miriam! I don’t mean to turn teachers off of teaching Montessori. It’s hard because most Montessori schools (in Canada) are privately owned businesses and unfortunately, some owners treat it as exactly that– a business. However, there are also many wonderful Montessorians who open their own schools and treat their teachers fairly in terms of pay and benefits. You really have to do your research into schools in your area to make this decision. Remember, I only taught for four years and only in one specific part of the world…so do not take my word as anything close to being an expert opinion! All the best!

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