Public school teachers (and students) in New York and beyond are on vacation this week. Should we feel guilty about it? More than any aspect of our jobs, the vacation time we teachers receive draws resentful, bitter comments from folks outside the profession.
Having held a variety of other jobs, I definitely appreciate that teachers get more paid time than any other profession I know of. Sometimes, we take trips on these vacations, spending our exorbitant salaries on VIP suites in the finest resorts the French Riviera has to offer.
Sadly, I won’t be visiting the Riviera this week. Aside from writing blog posts, I’ll be catching up on work. I have about 50 pages worth of research papers to grade, a stack of written responses to Act III of Romeo & Juliet, and some lessons to plan.
I’m not complaining; I like most of this work and it’s the job I signed up for. Most teachers I know look forward to some of our vacation time precisely for this reason: we’re so overworked that without the time off, we could never catch up on our grading, planning, and sleep.
Schools, like ecosystems, follow the seasons. Fields and orchards lie fallow for long stretches in between planting and harvesting. These fallow periods aren’t wasted time; they allow ecosystems to regenerate and remain fertile.
Similarly, while teacher vacation time may look like a needless luxury to the value-added zealots, it’s restorative for both teachers and students. Whether we’re talking about schools or ecosystems, overwork and exhaustion are destructive forces. I’m grateful to have this week off; my students (and my well being) will be the better for it.