School may be starting next week, but for many teachers, that doesn’t mean the end of a nice, long, relaxing, sun-bathing, margarita-sipping summer vacation.
The time between May and August for many teachers is about finding other work outside the classroom to help subsidize their standard paychecks.
In fact, the #nosummersoff tweet went viral this summer bringing attention to the fact that there is a misconception that teachers have summers “off.”
Although there are many teachers in Emporia who find work after school dismisses in May, we talked with three who have found a variety of ways to earn extra cash this summer.
Alissa Miller, a Language Arts teacher at Emporia Middle School, waits tables at Coach’s during the summer — and all year long.
“I just need extra money, honestly,” Miller said. “Kind of to make all the things tie together — make ends meet — with teaching.”
Teaching often requires a Master’s degree, but it “doesn’t pay super well,” she said. This is the case in many districts across the state and the country.
Having a summer or after school job helps provide extra cash for birthdays and Christmas and to travel every now and again.
Even teachers who don’t have jobs during the summer often find themselves working in some fashion. They do school-related work to prepare for the coming year, according to Miller. This work includes professional development, such as attending conferences and leadership seminars, curriculum development or spending time working in their classrooms. They do all this to prepare for when students come flowing back through the door at summer’s end.
“Along with that, I feel like a lot of teachers do have additional jobs during the summertime in order to make ends meet during the school year,” Miller said. “We don’t have our summers off, as a lot of people like to joke about.”
And during the school year, a teacher’s work is never done.
Instructors go in early to prepare for students’ arrival and the day ahead. They often linger after all of their students have headed home.
Miller goes in around 7 a.m. and stays about an hour or so after school, she said.
“If I have to, I usually take my grading home with me,” she said.
If Miller didn’t take her grading home with her in the evenings, she might have to stay at school late each night, she said.
Teachers are contracted employees — they are paid for 40 hours a week. If they work over that amount, that work is uncompensated.
Depending on the week, Miller said she could end up working five or more hours over what she’s strictly contracted to work, just because she has so much to do.
Troy Chapman, a guidance counselor at EHS said he has always worked during the summer months.
“It’s just a way to bring in extra income,” he said. “I’ve got three girls and they’ve got their needs and wants and I’ve got one getting ready to go to college. So, it’s always been a way to just make extra money.”
Plus, he said, it’s something to do during the summer.
“I’m not one to sit around and do nothing,” Chapman said. “I also enjoy looking at a finished product and making something look nice again.”
Chapman brings his oldest daughters along with him to help paint.
“It’s a way to get them working and making a little extra money as well,” he said.
He said he’d never felt forced to work during what is ostensibly supposed to be his summer vacation. Chapman does, however, sometimes grow tired of it, sometimes.
“By the end of the summer, I don’t want to see a paintbrush for nine months,” he said.
When he reported back to work prior to school starting, Chapman still had a house to finish. This means he’ll head to the school at 7:30 a.m., work until around 3:30 p.m. and then go paint until sundown until the job is done.
“That makes for some long days,” Chapman said.
He’s ready to be back at EHS full time, by now.
“I enjoy my job as a guidance counselor, and then I also enjoy coaching a great deal and just meeting new people during the summer whose homes I’m painting,” Chapman said. “For the most part, I enjoy it all.”
“It’s things that have to get done,” Miller said. “And I try to do activities and plan things for my students that, one — they’re going to enjoy, that they can get something out of and take away from and those types of things don’t just happen overnight. You have to plan and prepare and be organized.”
Again, this is not unique to Emporia. This is something that happens frequently in other districts around the United States.
“Honestly, I think that people just, outside of education, need to know how hard teachers work just to help develop good human beings,” Miller said.
At the middle school level especially, she said, it’s important not to just teach content, but soft skills such as respect for others, social skills and how to resolve interpersonal conflict appropriately. All this combines to help students learn to contribute to their communities.
“It’s not just academics that we’re trying to teach them,” Miller said. “It’s social and emotional skills and soft skills that they need to be successful in their lives, which is just as important — or more important than — academics.”
Donovan Hamilton loves his job with USD 253 — this he makes clear.
He teaches physics and physical science during the school year and works as a tire tech at Mel’s Tires during the summers. He works about 50 hours a week at his summer job, roughly the same as he spends working during the school year.
The summer job is a chance to earn extra cash for expenses and extras, such as house maintenance, a yearly vacation he takes with his family and activities for his children, such as swimming lessons and gymnastics.
Hamilton does get tired of it after a while, he said.
“I enjoy the work, but with any job, you know, you get tired of it,” he said.
Hamilton hopes the general public understands what his career entails.
“All the teachers I know work a second job,” he said. “It may not be working in the summertime, but they’re either coaching something or they’re tutoring after school or they’re involved in some other thing to make extra money. Because teachers — I’m not going to say teachers get paid poorly — but we only have a nine-month contract. We’re only paid for 185 days or whatever. And the rest of that time, we are unpaid.”
Like other educators around the country, he sometimes finds himself working more than the hours he’s contracted for. Taking work home has always been part of the job for teachers, he said, but cell phones and email mean always being on-call, in a sense.
Even in the summer, he sometimes has something to do for school.
Hamilton does everything others in his profession have to do.
“Every time I drive by the grade school, there’s always teachers’ cars still there,” he said. “I mean, long after we’re done.
“It’s hard, but I understand. I don’t plan on working every summer for the rest of my life, but until I get my student loans paid off.”
This is another issue teachers around the country have run into. A teacher’s salary isn’t always enough to pay off their student loans and cover other expenses at the same time.
Hamilton attended Emporia State University, so he has less to pay off in loans than some, he said, but he also has a mortgage and child care expenses for his three young children. It can make it difficult to make ends meet.
Many teachers choose to hold portions of their paycheck back during the school year to be distributed to them during the summer months. This is what Hamilton does.
“Sometimes people think that we get paid for 12 months for only nine months of work,” he said. “And we really get paid for nine months of work over 12 months.”
Hamilton is adamant that he doesn’t have to work during the summers. One year, he chose to abstain from the summer job, he said. Hamilton spent that summer working on his house.
He mostly just wishes he had more time to do everything he needs to do.
“There’s not enough time in the day,” he said. “I don’t know what needs to change or how we can change that, but it’d be nice if we made enough money to go out to dinner every now and then. And, again, I’m not complaining about my wages at the school. I think I get paid — we get paid — well. But it’s hard — it’s hard to pay all the bills and everything. And I enjoy teaching, so there is a reward. There’s a reason it’s called public service.”