The number of holidays that teachers get annually seem to be a bone of contention for many from the non-teaching community.
As teachers, we have all been on the other end of passive-aggressive type comments from others who appear to be begrudgingly envious of the time off that we get in comparison to other professions.
Our long summer holidays in particular seem to be a great source of irritation to the general population, many of whom think teachers waltz out of their classroom doors at 3.30 pm each day once the last student has left.
This article aims to shed some light on what it is that teachers do during their long summer days and possibly create a greater understanding that this extended summer vacation isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
What Do Teachers Actually Do During The Summer?
What is it then that teachers actually do during the summer?
- Self-care: You can’t pour from an empty cup! To do our job well, teachers need to rest our bodies and minds.
- Family Commitments: Yes, we have families too.
- Travelling: We are stuck with when we can take holidays meaning we always pay premium prices.
- Supplementing Income: Sadly, a teaching salary isn’t often enough to survive.
- Reconnecting with Friends: We are either too busy or too tired (usually both) to do much socialising during term time
- Professional Development: Work.
- Planning and Preparation: More work!
The answer to this question will invariably depend on the individual teacher. Factors such as financial situation, home life, type of contract and experience will all have a significant impact on what it is that a teacher can and might do with their time off.
So, let’s delve straight in and look at some of the things that teachers might get up to on their summer holidays.
You may even find yourself surprised!
The majority of teachers will, at some point during the holidays, take some time to “switch off” and recharge their batteries after the school year.
With teachers working on average between 55 and 59 hours per week between directed and non-directed time, it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep a healthy work-life balance.
Teacher burnout is a real issue here in the UK, with many teachers only lasting five years in the profession before leaving.
Despite the fact that teachers are seen to have many holidays throughout the school year, these ‘holidays’ are predominantly spent planning lessons for the following term and attending meetings or training events.
Summer vacation is often the only opportunity for teachers to ‘refill their buckets’ and take some well-earned time for themselves.
This may involve relaxing at home, going on vacation or returning to a hobby that they just did not have time to focus on during the school year. As the saying goes, “you cannot pour from an empty cup,” so it is vital that teachers have time to focus on their own wellbeing before returning to the classroom in September.
For some reason, it is easy to forget that teachers are real people too, many of whom have families of their own.
When teachers are off school, inevitably, so are their children!
While summer vacation is a great opportunity for teachers to spend quality time with their own family, we all know that parenting is not an easy job. Anyone who has children will know that finding time to relax at home during the summer holidays is a task in itself.
For many teachers, particularly the younger cohort of teachers, extended holidays during summer vacation provide the ideal time to travel abroad and explore, with some teachers even using this time to volunteer their services in developing countries, experiencing life and creating memories.
Although this sounds amazing in theory, these trips, whether for leisure or work, need to be funded.
Unfortunately, people do not go into the teaching profession for the money and depending on your pay scale and financial commitments, for many teachers, travelling the world is something they can only dream of.
This is something that I think many of the non-teaching population are unaware of. Most teachers have a side job!
For some teachers, depending on their financial commitments, a teaching salary may not be enough to make ends meet, particularly when you take into account the rising cost of living in the UK today.
As a result, many teachers choose to take on extra work outside of school.
Other teachers may run summer camps, sign up to teach summer school, mark GCSE and A-Level exams or even take up hospitality work such as waiting in restaurants or working in bars.
There are also teachers that have no choice but to take up summer work as depending on their contract (or lack thereof), they may not receive any pay for summer vacation.
We will talk more about this later in the article.
Reconnecting with Friends
The school year is extremely busy and once September arrives, free time is exceptionally limited, with most teachers spending at least part of their weekends and holidays on school-related commitments.
As each term passes, it is inevitable that exhaustion will set in and hopping on that train to London at the weekend to meet friends or family is no longer as appealing as it was when you first made the plan.
As a result, these trips are often put on the back burner and connecting with friends and family is never as regular as one would like.
Summer vacation is often the only time teachers can spend real quality time with their loved ones, without worrying about what they have to get done before school on Monday.
Many teachers will ensure that reconnecting with people they haven’t seen in a while is a top priority for the summer holidays.
Love it or hate it, professional development is an essential and mandatory part of the teaching career.
Professional development courses, either online or on-site, are necessary in order for teachers to keep abreast of changing curricula, guidelines, standards and expectations, as well as improving their own teaching skills and abilities.
In the UK, all teachers are required to complete thirty hours of professional development each year.
While teachers can undergo some of these hours during term time, many will spend part of their summer vacation completing courses to ensure that they are up to date and have met the requirements.
These courses, particularly if attended in person, are also a great way for teachers to connect with others in the profession and share their thoughts, ideas and experiences.
Planning and Preparation
As much as teachers would love to spend their summer vacation ‘switched off’ and not thinking about school, it is unrealistic to think that any teacher, regardless of experience, can simply turn up on the first day of school without having spent any time planning or preparing for the year ahead.
Depending on school policy, it is likely that teachers will move classroom and or/class level regularly throughout their career.
Dismantling a classroom is not necessarily a difficult task but it is however a tedious one. It can take hours to complete and can only be done once the school has officially closed and summer vacation has begun.
Equipment needs to be moved; walls need to be stripped bare of displays; resources need to be packed into boxes in at least a semi-organised fashion. Everything then needs to be wheeled down the hallway and reassembled in the new classroom.
That is of course if you are lucky enough to be staying in the same school.
Depending on your contract, you may be switching schools altogether and so will begin the tiresome task of making numerous car trips with boxes of resources and paperwork you accumulated during the year.
Regardless of whether they are moving rooms or moving school, most teachers will likely spend the first few days of their summer vacation completing this task alone.
Once this task is completed, teachers can normally breathe a sigh of relief for a few weeks before having to think about the new school year.
A week or two before reopening, teachers will have to start planning for the upcoming term. Scrolling through their class lists, they will need to identify the needs of various students and decide how best to cater for these needs in order to reach all of the students in their class.
Reflecting on the previous year is a must; identifying what worked well and what needs to be changed.
Lesson plans will need to be updated accordingly. For experienced teachers, this task may not be too burdensome but it still takes time.
However, for newly qualified teachers or for teachers who have not taught their allocated class level before, having to create lesson plans from scratch can be arduous and time-consuming.
Once your general plans are laid out, it’s onto resources.
Laminators the length and breadth of the UK are pulled out at the end of August and so begins the endless hours of printing, laminating and cutting.
Once again, for an experienced teacher, this may not take as much time as it would for an NQT as resources are accumulated year on year.
Regardless of experience, it is inevitable that a trip into the classroom to hang displays will be required before the official reopening date.
All of this planning and preparation can eat into so much of a teacher’s summer vacation and this ‘invisible’ work is rarely seen or acknowledged by the non-teaching community.
How long do teachers get off for summer?
In the UK, teachers officially get six weeks off for summer vacation, with Northern Ireland having an extra two weeks due to shorter half-term breaks. The specific dates are set by local councils and so can vary slightly between regions.
However, as we have seen, teachers are not necessarily ‘off’ for these six weeks.
Do teachers get paid during the summer?
In theory, full-time teachers are paid during their summer holidays. However, teachers are only paid for their ten months of contracted hours which is then spread out over twelve months. So, while it does appear that teachers do get paid for their summer vacation, in reality, this is not the case.
Supply teachers or substitute teachers on the other hand, only get paid for the days that they work. Therefore, if schools are closed they are not entitled to be paid. They are however entitled to some holiday pay which is calculated based on the number of days worked.
While this may seem unfair, supply teachers do not have the same level of responsibility when it comes to planning and preparation as a full time teacher.
This makes supply teaching quite appealing to those who can financially afford to work this way.
For those teachers that are not working in a supply role by choice, they will generally find alternative work for the summer months while applying to schools for full-time roles.
In Conclusion (Let’s put this to bed now….Finally!)
There is no denying that one of the perks to being a teacher is the number of holidays, particularly the long summer vacation.
But we need to stop berating teachers for their time off and debunk the misconception that teachers spend their holidays lazing about, all while being paid for it.
While as in any profession, this may be true for a handful of teachers, the majority work extremely hard both inside and outside of their contracted hours to ensure that their students get the best education possible.
So much work goes on behind the scenes, a fraction of which I have outlined above. Without all of this background work, effective teaching and learning could not happen.
Given the amount of thought, planning and preparation involved in the return to school, it is likely that most teachers will spend approximately one-third of their summer vacation getting ready for September.
Summer vacation is perhaps the only opportunity that teachers get to really unwind and recharge. Having space and time to do that will reignite their passion for teaching and make them better teachers in the long run.
Regardless of what teachers do during the summer, I assure you that they are grateful for and treasure every moment of free time that they have, as they know once September comes around it will be ‘back to the grind.’
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What Do Teachers Do During The Summer?
Self-care: You can’t pour from an empty cup! To do our job well, we need to rest our bodies and minds.
Family Commitments: Yes, we have families too.
Travelling: We are stuck with when we can take holidays meaning we always pay premium prices.
Supplementing Income: Sadly, a teaching salary isn’t often enough to survive.
Reconnecting with Friends: We are either too busy or too tired (usually both) to do much socialising during term time
Professional Development: Work.
Planning and Preparation: More work!
Do teachers get paid during the summer?
Full-time teachers are only paid for their ten months of contracted hours which is then spread out over twelve months. So, while it does appear that teachers do get paid for their summer vacation, in reality, this is not the case.
How long do teachers get off for summer?
In the UK, teachers officially get six weeks off for summer vacation, with Northern Ireland having an extra two weeks due to shorter half-term breaks.