One is trekking through Europe. Another will immerse herself in the performing arts. And many will keep their noses to the grindstone.
Those are just some of the summer plans shared with us by teachers from throughout the metropolitan area, as schools closed up shop for the next eight weeks.
Here are some of the main things we learned about educators and summer, including a variety of opinions on whether the eight week break is beneficial for teachers and students.
The Vacation Myth
Almost every educator that responded to survey said that the biggest misconception about teachers and summer vacation is that they have eight weeks of freedom.
“I think the biggest misconception is that teachers don’t work when we don’t have students. This is not just the case during the summer, but applies year-round. Most professionals spend their working hours completing their tasks, but as teachers we see students all day. The 7:30-3:30 job, the actual teaching, is the fun part. Our work: grading, reviewing data, researching instructional strategies, furthering of educations, and preparing lessons begins when the students leave. We do these things before and after work, on the weekends, and especially during the summer.” – Mary Werly, Center High School
“I am traveling and presenting at professional conferences in Spain and Chicago, writing — finishing a book and a couple of articles. Not much of a vacation. As an academic I rarely have any real vacation time. I will also be preparing for fall classes.” – Norma Cantu, University of Missouri – Kansas City
“I don’t want to be ‘that guy’ with the refrain about teachers working hard, but … we do work pretty hard. I will be spending a considerable amount of time this summer lesson planning and strategizing for the upcoming school year (including buying supplies!). But I think of it like, say, those who get to play baseball for a living. I genuinely love teaching, and so the ‘hard work’ actually doesn’t feel like hard work. I enjoy lesson planning. Maybe it’s a sickness.” – Ryan Acosta-Fox, Washington High School
“In reality, many teachers spend time doing professional development and planning for the coming school year. In addition, many work other jobs to make ends meet. Essentially, when teachers are not ‘working’ they are still working in many other capacities.” – Karis Parker, Foreign Language Academy
A lot of teachers go back to school during summer
Whether working on another degree and brushing up on skills with professional development courses, many local teachers will get be students this summer.
“I plan on taking over 60 hours of professional development that my district provides. I will spend eight hours of every weekday in June getting my classroom together and organized for the next year. I will also spend part of that time planning for instruction with colleagues. I will spend lots of time garage-selling for books to stock my classroom, as well as spend lots of time thinking and talking about school.” – Danielle Bentley, Winnwood Elementary
“I have signed up for professional development for two classes. I believe it is important to keep up with new teaching trends, advance technology, etc. I like taking advantage of any course offered in order to refresh and enhance my knowledge of the courses I teach.” – Carolyn Boyd, Central High School
“I am completing my specialist in administration through NW Missouri State. Since I am going to be teaching two new grades (4/5) in the next two years, I will be doing a lot of planning and prep work in order to be ready for my students in August.” – Micah Fritz, Red Bridge Elementary
Summer can be an opportunity to pursue other passions
“This summer I will celebrate 26 years as the band director for the July 4th concert for the City of Gladstone. The North Star Community Band (which I started in 1988) will celebrate our Nation’s Independence with a concert and Fireworks (provided by the City’s Park and Rec Dept) at Oak Grove Park in Gladstone. North Star also provides music for the two Theatre in the Park productions, which are “Hairspray” and “Oliver”. All productions and performances are free to the public. This has been a wonderful long-time partnership with Ibsen Dance Theatre and the City of Gladstone, and I am proud to be a part of the musical experience of the community.” –Faye Rader, Foreign Language Academy
“I plan to spend a great deal of the time playing with my eight grandchildren at Legoland, the Aquarium, Schlitterbahn Water Park and in my yard and my husband’s movie theater/office. Yes, weirdly enough, playing with children is all I really want to do unless I am painting, drawing, or cartooning, which I will also be doing in my art studio which my husband built me last year. In short, I shall enjoy every second of my vacation by having all kinds of ‘me’ time. I have started, and so far, so great!” – Caren Krutsinger, Holliday Montessori
“My son and I will be going to Europe for six weeks. I will have an exhibition of my art in Cognac, France, to coincide with the Cognac Blues Festival. While there, we plan to go to London and probably Italy. I plan to paint while there and possibly write some more.” – Harold Smith, Northeast High School
The divide over summer vacation
While teachers almost universally agreed that summer meant time to prep for another school year, opinions were mixed on whether or not eight weeks of vacation was an outdated approach.
“The students would benefit the best if they did not have such an extended summer break. More time for educating them and ensuring that all their needs are met would enhance their learning.” – Rosalind O’Hora, Whittier Elementary & LINC Summer Camp Instructor
“I like the summer vacation, and I think the kids need those extended breaks also. As times goes along we are going to expect more from our students and I think they can only benefit from the extended summer time off with their families.” – Christina Chandler, Red Bridge Elementary
“I would like to see us on a year-round schedule for different reasons. It would be a good change, because at this time our travel is limited to the most expensive time or around holidays when most people want to stay home. I’d like to afford to travel more. I dream of booking a New England leafing trip. I’d like to go visit my family without the pressure of returning within eight days. It would also be nice to travel when it is not bad weather, which is often the case at Winter Break. I think the year round schedule would be more accommodating for our non-Christian students. I would like us to avoid the summer slump. We could offer more social services with less breaks, i.e. our Students in Transition program, free lunches and breakfasts.” – Gwen Ervin, Garfield Elementary
“I would support options. All-day summer-school (one month) with the addition of a program for students and staff that would have the option of shorter breaks throughout the year. This may assist with graduation rates, an intense program to really assist students academically. The end to summer vacation could really interfere with summer programs for the arts, math and science programs at the university level, teacher professional development, etc.” – Leon Watkins Bailey, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary
“I have friends who teach in several countries around the world, and many of them follow a model of this kind. I think, like anything, there are pros and cons. From a strictly academic standpoint, I think that a shorter summer break combined with more regular “spring break” type breaks would be good for student learning. However, changes like these would need to be coupled with changes in how students are assessed and progress through education. I am also in the camp that believes that social promotion (students progressing through grades based more on age then on achievement) is an outdated system. A school year that is more continuous and does not have a clear-cut ending and beginning as our current system does would lend itself well to achievement-based promotion. I think these two changes coupled together would dramatically change education in America for the better.” – Alec Chambers, Center High School
Major Funding for Education coverage on KCPT provided by Jo Anna Dale and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation