The following was written by Tiki Olshina Sharabi, a fellow teacher who has eloquently written what many of us feel.
TIKI: Just read a post by someone who was complaining about the long vacation teachers have over the summer and how teachers are no more deserving of a long break than other professionals because teaching is not harder than most other jobs. I am really hoping that the complaint wasn’t against teachers and was more a misguided statement about the difficulty that most working parents face while their children are free but they are still required to be at work. I want to unpack that accusation against teachers being somehow undeserving of a six week ‘vacation’ every year when the average employee is entitled to 12 days per year.
I am a full time teacher. Sadly my pay isn’t anywhere near what it is in most other fields… in fact, even after 9 years experience and taking on extra roles at work and tutoring after hours, it is still below the median wage in my country and faaaar less than what teachers make overseas. My family doesn’t live a flashy lifestyle. We live in a low socio-economic area where we could afford housing and we don’t vacation every year. My husband and I rarely buy new clothes for ourselves and frankly, it’s been so long since I’ve had a disposable income that I’ve actually forgotten how to enjoy going to the mall just for fun. We have been driving the same second hand car for the last 8 years. I’m letting you know these things so that you can understand that I’m not somehow living it up financially and also getting a longer and less deserved vacation than everyone else.
So far, my ‘vacation’ has been spent going to professional development conferences and staff meetings (of which I have more throughout the ‘vacation’). I too have had to make sure that my children are in kaytana (camp) and thank goodness that maon (daycare) is still going for another three weeks, because otherwise I’d have to continue working through my ‘vacation’ while taking care of my children — just like other working parents. My inbox has been busy with messages from work demanding attention and my phone has been ringing since school has finished with questions from students, parents and colleagues (and no, they don’t ask if it is a convenient time… they just call… even. late. at. night. and even after multiple requests only to call during ‘business hours’). This happens year-round, ‘vacation’ or work week and weekends as well.
A teacher’s summer break is not a holiday, it is an opportunity to continue working without having to also teach at the same time. It is a chance to go to all those doctor’s appointments that we’ve had to push off during the year because there were no substitutes available and we didn’t want our students to miss out on lessons, and yes, it is a chance for us to rest as well because I don’t think that there are many jobs that pay as little, and yet demand that you use all of your physical, mental and emotional resources 100% of the time, including during your ‘family’ or ‘personal’ time. Trust me, our actual vacation days (if we are lucky enough to be left alone by work, parents and students long enough) amount to pretty much the same number of days that most other professions are entitled to.
Next time you decide to bash teachers for the lack of convenient and inexpensive childcare options during vacation, stop and think who is at fault here. It. Is. Not. The. Teachers.
Maybe, instead, thank the people who have been caring for and educating your children selflessly throughout the year and then demand from your government a subsidised holiday program that is affordable and available to all, allowing you to continue working and the teachers to breathe for a few days.