I’m a regular at George’s Restaurant in Pelham Bay, Bronx. My waiter knows I’m a teacher. “It’s almost time for your vacation. Do you have any plans?,” he asks. “Yes, study, travel, conference attendance, and time for reflection,” I replied. “You’re lucky, you have the summers off,” he confidently states. Responding more reactively than proactively, I said, “That’s not entirely true. I spend a week giving myself the space to transition into other activities and then I’m refreshed to start again.”
Let’s be clear: Teachers are NEVER off. It’s time we tell the world how we meet goals in 10 months as a result of the work we do 12 months of the year. Here is my 5-step oath that I will use in encountering a “You’re lucky, you have the summers off” comment moving forward.
I, Kalyca A. Thomas, will eradicate the “Teachers Have Summers Off” misconception by agreeing to:
- Explain the hours needed to plan and update lessons as a response to students’ progress.
- Describe the high cognitive ability required for me to make quick decisions. Then, let people know that this ability is polished during the summer with time established to only concentrate on 3 activities at a time, versus 6 or more simultaneously.
- Inform people that teachers are highly-educated and lifelong learners.. This is a time in which we finish taking a class and register for another one. We hold multiple certifications. NYC teachers are required to hold Master’s degrees to obtain a permanent license. We also continue our education by attending conferences, Reading and Writing Institutes, and webinars. I am currently enrolled in Harvard University’s Data Wise Improvement Process course.
- Increase others’ understanding about constantly changing schedules. I taught sixth and seventh grade English Language Arts (ELA) this year. The previous year I only taught seventh grade ELA.
- Convey my Reflections: What worked and what is the evidence? I connect with colleagues from other schools. We meet for brunch and discuss our favorite lessons. We comment on which students exceeded our expectations and those in need of our additional help. We share resources and connect each other with teacher lead organizations such as Educators for Excellence.
If you know a teacher that would benefit from my 5-step oath, share with him/her my troubleshooting template below:
|When People Say…||Your Response|
|You teach the same thing over and over again, year after year. You don’t have much to change.||My average class size is_______. Of that size, I have _____% of students that read and ______% capable of calculating basic math calculations.|
|Your days are short and you only work 10 months of the year and get paid for 12||During those 10 months, we work 10-12 hour days. On average, 2-3 days are spent on leading a sport’s team or student club. We work on Saturday teaching kids that need additional help.|
|Working with kids is easy because they must do what you say as the adult.||Kids of today are empowered to respond based on their own thoughts. We have to be engaging and highly competent to hold their attention.|
|You have all the parts of a working organization under one roof. It must be easier to get the job done.||Administrators have a vision, teachers drive that vision, and students’ learning indicates if the vision actually manifests. Each has dependent variables that alter a school’s vision at any time.|
My Call to Action — Now that you know why Teachers are NEVER off, follow through with one of these recommendations:
- Read educational NYC Policy Papers written by current classroom teachers at Educators for Excellence New York Chapter.
- Offer your Twitter handle (or a trusted one; I personally believe one should begin with @NYSchoolTalk) so you may join others in current educational discussions.
- Volunteer at least twice a month in your local school.
- Become a mentor (Big Brother, Big Sister for example).
- Attend community School Board meetings.
Teachers’ work is the cornerstone of a civil and just society. We are NEVER off.