The Pros and Cons of Summer Vacation
Over time, traditions develop and become a part of our identity. They grow from different circumstances and exert a range of influences over our lives. One such tradition is the western school calendar which usually includes a three-month summer break. Grown from a need to have as many hands possible present at harvest, summer vacation has developed into an indelible rite of passage from childhood and adolescence to adulthood. Countless literary classics reflect our culture’s strong connection to summer vacation with stories of adventure and self-discovery that take the protagonist through a summer of change and transition. Recently however, this strongly established tradition has been challenged as more and more schools are seeing value in a year-round school calendar. This new approach also brings many changes for teachers. While schools evaluate the time-held tradition of summer vacation, it is important to consider what this change means for teachers — both the pros and the cons.
Summer vacation is not only a break from the rigors of teaching, but it also serves as an opportunity for both personal and career growth. Taking time to unwind and relax from the emotional and physical demands of caring for a classroom of students is a much-needed benefit for all teachers. And with a larger amount of consolidated time off in the summers, many teachers are finding room for even more opportunities such as teaching abroad, pursuing higher education and seeking professional development.
- Teaching abroad is a chance for teachers to recharge their batteries with the exhilaration of traveling to a new country. Living and working abroad offers a fresh perspective, and many teachers find that this experience refuels both a passion for life and teaching. Teaching abroad is a benefit to teachers as they return to their “home” classrooms, by allowing them to connect more meaning to their lesson plans via their new experiences.
- Pursuing higher education is another great benefit that teachers can take advantage of during their summer vacation. Getting a master’s is a way to strengthen teaching skills, improve career marketability and gain salary increases. Deciding on an area of emphasis and enrolling in classes can take time and energy. Many teachers don’t have time to begin this process during the school year, but summer vacation proves an ideal break to get this process started so it’s a smooth transition back into the school year.
- Professional development can come in many forms. For some teachers, it’s an opportunity to enroll in workshops that focus on areas in which they’ve always wanted to challenge themselves or learn more about. Less formally, professional development is also a chance for teachers to reflect on the school year, make changes and prepare for the upcoming year. Summer vacation is a great time to enjoy delving into the finer aspects of teaching without the pressure of lessons to prepare or school obligations to fulfill.
While there are many benefits to a school calendar that includes the traditional three-month vacation, there can also be some disadvantages for teachers. One common issue that many teachers cite is the extra work it takes to get students back in gear after a long summer break. According to a study by Cooper, Valentine and Charlton, students in year-round schools tend to do better in terms of academic achievement, especially low-income students. For students, summer vacation can mean a loss academically and might leave them further behind at the start of the next school year; this means more work for teachers. Another disadvantage to the traditional calendar can also be longer periods of teaching throughout the year without breaks. Teaching is emotionally demanding and time intensive. With a year-round school calendar, more breaks are scheduled during shorter intervals. This allows regular breaks for teachers to maintain healthy boundaries in their work and can improve job satisfaction.
Education is an exciting field today with important ideas being challenged and many voices joining the conversation. Schools throughout the country are finding their own solutions to the school year’s calendar, and teachers can be a part of the process by sharing their unique perspective and insight. Whether to preserve or to change the traditional three-month summer break is still a question that teachers and schools are looking to answer.
Image by Kymberly Janisch