Despite its inaccuracy in New York City (the school year continues until late June), I found fault in its logic on multiple other levels: as I began my teaching career over five years ago I would spend much of my summer mentally preparing to work with another group of students. Moreover, I would constantly be processing the lessons and interactions I had had the previous year in the classroom. The teacher’s summer may be one of flexibility, but it is by no means one without rigor and thought.
Teaching can be quite draining - both physically and emotionally. As an employee of the NYC Department of Education I made the conscious choice to work in a school with more Special Education students than average and with a wide variation in income levels, leaning towards the lower end of the spectrum. These challenges are the ones that require the most work and therefore - I believe - deserve the most motivated teachers. That being said, it can also push one's supply of compassion to its limit and reduce the motivation to work quite a bit.
After a full 10 months with over 150 students to take care of I use part of my summer to simply relax and not need to constantly think about other people’s desires over my own. That part - commonly known as “vacation” is one that I do look forward to in order to “recharge my batteries” so I can dive in again at the beginning of the new school year.
Most of my summer, however, is spent discussing my job, my students, and my plans for the next year. Whenever I catch up with a friend while traveling, I am inevitably recounting some story of a lesson or a student that helps me analyze the work I’ve done and make sure to improve for the future. The conversation usually spirals into that friend suggesting tips or connecting me with other resources I could use to make things better upon my return.
Many weeks of the summer I actually spend working a few hours a day on lesson plans, preparing documents, writing grants, reading studies I do not have time to read during the year, etc. For me, the bulk of the summer is spent retracing my steps in order to learn from them and making decisions on how to proceed for the future. Without this time I would find myself constantly in a state of "catch-up" during the school year, unable to predict and plan for the coming weeks or months.
In short, a teacher's summer is not the time off the media might make people believe; it is a time of reflection and resolution to make the upcoming year even better.