It's true that teachers get the summers off, but often times they spend at least some of it in unpaid trainings and workshops, planning and working in our classrooms. We do this because we want to be better and want to be able to prepare well for the upcoming year, but again it is all unpaid. There are few people who would accept a non-teaching job that boasted as part of the job description several unpaid weeks of work in the summer. But, that's all part of the deal when you become a teacher.
I've also taught with people who are basically teaching just so they can have the summers off, and they have been eaten alive by the job. If your heart is not in the right place, the 2 1/2 months of 'free-time' in the summer cannot sustain someone all school year long. Teachers are salaried, and the usual paid workday is 8 hours. At my school our paid hours are from 7:30am to 3:30pm, and classes run from 8-3:10. We are alotted one 45 minute planning period. However, it is impossible to do all one's planning, grading, paperwork, copying, meetings, etc . in 45 minutes, so teachers regularly work several extra hours a day. Sometimes I would like to clock in and out to see how many hours we actually work because then people would really see what a great deal taxpayers are getting! If every teacher works 8 extra hours a week at $25/hr (general going rate for tutoring, etc.) for 36 weeks of the school year, that adds up to $7200/year. Some teachers at my school are there regularly until 5:30 and most others go home and do some kind of work at home. Many other jobs cannot say they work so many extra unpaid hours on such a regular basis. And, yes we sometimes complain, but who doesn't complain about their job sometimes? And, at the end of the day we do the extra time because we care about the students and want to do our jobs well.
And that brings me to my next point that teachers are public figures held to a higher standard than many others. Our jobs can be in jeapardy if we have a facebook picture of us drinking a beer or glass of wine (even though we are of age) - even if we didn't post the picture or if our FB page is totally private. In addition to teaching the curriculum and standards, we are expected to be moral and social role models and supports. We are counselors, mediators, private tutors, a shoulder to cry on, medical doctors and general knowers of all things. We must keep an eye out for suspicious situations (drugs, abuse, etc.) and monitor the needs of each student we have. The power of a teacher is great. How many times have you said or heard someone said 'But my teacher said. . ." We have a huge responsibility to be positive role models to our students, to be correct in our information and to not let our students down in any way. How many news stories are there of teachers who did not take that responsibility seriously?
Please don't get me wrong - I LOVE being a teacher. I love the successes of students. I love seeing them graduate. I love seeing them learn and enjoy something in science. And, I really love when they come to me sharing how they used their new knowledge outside the classroom. There is nothing more fulfilling than a thank-you note from a student whom you've impacted in some way or a hug from a student you never thought liked your class. But, those little moments come after long, exhausting planning, meeting, teaching, testing, encouraging (and sometimes begging) in the trenches for 9 months (or longer if you've had that student more than once), and sometimes people don't realize what that actually means. But, at the end of the day, there's nothing like knowing you've made a difference in someone's life.