May 23, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
May 23, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Do Teachers Take a Summer Vacation?

They say that if you watch how sausages are made you will never eat one. What this really means is that consumers want an end product but don’t want to know how it gets produced. Schools are a lot like that. Parents and the community want the best for their children. They advocate, express their opinions and sometimes demand results. Rarely, however, do outsiders really understand what happens to make all this possible.

Putting aside all the enabling mechanisms such as the business office, maintenance and administration, the real action takes place in the classroom. Teachers spend more time with their students than do their parents. They have the awesome responsibility of molding young minds, teaching them lifelong skills and introducing them to the world of ideas. Every teacher aims for the “aha” moment when students “get it.”

In theory, teachers deserve the highest respect and honor. The reality does not always conform to this high concept. While the Talmud elevates the position of the teacher and offers many dicta about the honor due them, we have seen through the centuries that many great teachers suffered various privations in order to teach. This higher calling places the desire to pass on knowledge above personal and family needs.

No one becomes a teacher to become rich. These are highly motivated individuals. It is unfortunate that many talented individuals are lured to other more lucrative fields. Those who work in the classroom do not put in a normal working day. Most often in addition to their daytime hours, they spend each night preparing materials, grading papers, writing lesson plans and creating smart board presentations as well as cooking and taking care of their own family and children. It is far from a 9–5 job, and there is no compensation for this overtime, be it on a weekday, Sunday or holiday.

This is not about teacher salaries (which should be higher). It’s about basic respect for a profession. Rav Soloveitchik z”l often spoke about his first melamed and how much he learned from him. Each of us could say the same about many of our teachers. The New York City teachers’ union once had an advertising campaign with a simple slogan—“If you can read this, thank a teacher.”

Very often we hear people, usually from the business world, talk disparagingly about teachers. “After all they get off every Jewish and secular holiday, get tuition breaks and who else gets two months off every year?” As stated earlier, they have no understanding of what a teacher does to make the magic happen in the classroom. I know of no teacher who doesn’t spend the summer working on new ideas and materials for the coming year. When do all the posters get made? When do the notes welcoming new students get written? Well-prepared lessons take time to craft and tweak. “Vacation” time is to reflect on what went well and what didn’t and how to plan a better, more enriched lesson. Multiply this times the different subjects that a teacher teaches, and factor in the need for differentiation and innovation. This takes a lot of time. Teachers also need to update their technology skills and then figure out how to integrate them into the classroom. Many teachers use the summer months to hone their skills even further by enrolling in seminars and other professional-development opportunities.

Summertime is less stressful for teachers. After 10 hectic months they deserve and need a break. Yet, many work in camps as a way to give their children a camp experience that they otherwise could not afford. Some parents complain about schools being closed on erev Yom Tov, forgetting that teachers also need to prepare for the holiday.

We take so much for granted in our schools. The imagery of a glacier is appropriate. There is what we see, but most is submerged. The next time you see a teacher, say “thank you.”

Rabbi Dr. Wallace Greene has had a distinguished career as a Jewish educator. He is the founder of the Sinai School, served as the principal of the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy and has received many prestigious awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Lifshitz College of Education in Jerusalem and The World Council on Torah Judaism. He is currently a consultant for The International March of The Living, and serves as Executive Secretary of The Alisa Flatow Memorial Scholarship Fund. He can be reached at [email protected].

By Wallace Greene

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles