The Myth of the Evil Teacher Union, Part III

3. Teachers get lots and lots of vacation.

If you had a friend who lost his job at a factory, would you tell him he’s lucky because he now has lots and lots of vacation? If so, you’re a jerk.

“Vacation” implies that one has a period of time in which they are not working, but are being paid by their employer. Teachers may have extended times during the year when they are not working, but we are not paid during those periods.

Do you know how many days I can choose to take off and still get paid? Two. Do you know what I would do if I chose to take those “personal days” off? I would grade the piles of essays sitting on my desk. Now, I do get bank holidays. I have no complaint about those. And I love my Winter, Spring, and Summer breaks. But I don’t get paid during those breaks, so they aren’t “vacation”. They are regular periods of unemployment. In fact, we are given contracts in the Spring so that we cannot file for unemployment compensation in the summer. We have jobs, just without pay. Your pal who got laid off from the factory might get unemployment. So who’s getting “vacation”? Personally, I would love shorter summers. They would make our students more competitive with their peers over seas, who have shorter summer breaks (or none at all), and they would mean I could work a lot more of the year. I think many parents would love it, as they wouldn’t have to pay for so much childcare during the summer. In all the talk of school reform, how much do you hear about lengthening the school year, one of the guaranteed and proven ways to improve student performance? Not much. Because you’d have to pay teachers. Reformers don’t want to do that. So quit saying I get lots of vacation, and worse, that the union is to blame, when I’m asking you to let me work more.

Tomorrow, Myth #4: Teachers stand in the way of school reform.