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 three activities at a time, versus six 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. New York City 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 on what worked and providing evidence. I connect with colleagues from other schools to 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-led 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:
My Call to Action — Now that you know why teachers are never off, follow through with one of these recommendations:
- Read educational New York City 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.