Stop Saying Teachers "Don't Work" During the Summer

Teacher with student

gpointstudio / AdobeStock

AnnaMarie Houlis
AnnaMarie Houlis
April 13, 2024 at 10:37AM UTC
Teachers in the United States work, on average, 180 or so days annually. That excludes the work they do after school hours, on the weekends, during parent-teach conferences and "in-service" skills-training days, as well as over the summers. In fact, a teacher works about a 50-hour week on average, including more than 400 hours of overtime in a year. 
Teachers work a lot. So much so that they're actually more likely than others to work a second job, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)' year-round American Time Use Survey. Around 30 percent of teachers have jobs outside of being a teacher.
So let's stop saying that teachers don't work during the summertime, shall we? We spoke with eight teachers who told us how they spend their summer, indeed, working.

1. They're Taking Part-Time Summer Gigs

"Most teachers work second, third and sometimes even fourth jobs in the summer just to make ends meet," says Amanda, a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher in New Jersey. "We're the camp counselors, bartenders, wait staff — these people are mostly teachers. Those who choose or who are fortunate enough not to have to work an additional job through the summer are often spending most of their time researching new methods, prepping classrooms, organizing supplies and reading and designing curriculum, not to mention leveling libraries and hunting down books to fill them when our schools don't have the money to provide them."

2. They're Speaking at Conferences and Writing Educational Materials

"My summer consists of participation in professional learning book clubs, presenting at conferences, writing educational articles and planning for a brand new school year," says Kathryn Starke, an urban literacy specialist.

3.  They're Teaching Overseas

"I am a full-time professor of communications at Community College Baltimore County, and my area of concentration is digital media production," says Kendrick Kenney. "I was previously a professor at Bowie State University located in the state of Maryland. During my summer, I don't just stop working or kick my feet up. I am actually teaching abroad in Bangkok, Thailand at Ramkhamhaeng University."

4. They're Running Camps

"As the music teacher for First Presbyterian Preschool in Atlanta, I do not receive a salary over the summer," says Adam Cole. "I typically work at camps. This year I ran my own camp for the music instruction school I own and operate in the afternoons, the Grant Park Academy of the Arts."

5. They're Attending Workshops

"My summers are usually packed with workshops, internships and conferences," says Andrew Swapp, a former high school shop teacher and instructor in a wind technician training program. "I also work on creating new classes, new lessons and I review new text books. Please do not get me wrong, I enjoy my summer, as well. The time to recharge and enjoy life is so valuable. I tell my family that, when school is in session, I am basically not available. I go to school early, I stay late and I take tickets at sporting events that I am not coaching. So summer is family time first and school prep second. It has worked well for the past 18 years."

6.  They're Teaching at Summer School

"I've worked summer school every summer since I started teaching," says Stacey, a middle school teacher. "I usually still have three weeks off in August because the last week of August I go back to orientation with the kiddos. But we don't necessarily get vacation days during the school year so that's like our vacation time. If people argue that we have 'spring break' to vacation, 1. It's so expensive to travel then. 2. My pay was docked this year because of all the snow they scheduled for the Friday of spring break, and I couldn't make it. The principal was like, 'Well, I can't tell you not to go away, but you do run that risk.' So now that's in the back of my mind for this year. Not to mention that the majority of that time in August is spent planning for the upcoming school year."

7. They're Prepping for the Upcoming Year

"I'll be honest that I haven't done too much because I need to tune out work after 10 months of nonstop things all year, but I'm tutoring in August and start prepping and reading the material again in August, too," says Valerie, a high school teacher.

8. They Take Their Work Stresses Home With Them

"I wait tables in the summer to supplement my income," says Melinda, a Spanish teacher. "We don't get paid in the summertime, so most teachers have second jobs. I also believe that teachers take most work home with them. Maybe that's ignorant of me to say because I don't know what it's like to work in another industry. But, for example, if I had a bad customer at [my restaurant], the minute they left the table, I basically forget about it. And when I get home, I completely shut off. With school, I lost sleep stressing over lessons and bratty kids. Also, we're observed by administrators and that in itself is stressful. I take so much stress home with me when I'm not at work being a teacher."
And if you get a chance, why not celebrate your child's educator on National Teacher's Day in May, or World Teacher's Day in October.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at by night.

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