What are teachers up to during the summer?

Posted at 12:00 PM, Jun 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-04 12:00:31-04

CINCINNATI -- School’s out for many tri-state students, but that doesn’t necessarily mean break time for teachers.

To some, teachers may seem to have it easy, with two to three months off work. For most educators, though, the summer months are only slightly less busy than the rest of the year.

“There’s always things to prepare for,” said Brittany Galbreath, a third-grade teacher at Hamilton City Schools’  Brookwood Elementary.

For teachers, summer begins with a wrap-up period that can start as early as the beginning of May. The process varies by teacher, subject and grade level, but it generally includes taking down bulletin boards and decorations, meeting with other teachers and entering final grades.

Teachers in Sycamore Community Schools have one contracted work day after school concludes for students. Mel Ostrowski, who teaches fourth-grade language arts and social studies at Blue Ash Elementary, expects to spend one or two partial days at the school, in addition to the contracted day.

The school year also starts earlier for educators than students. Between setting up classrooms and getting ready for open house nights, teachers typically spend “a few days” preparing for a new school year, Ostrowski said.

In a survey of eight grade-level leaders and department heads from Monroe Local Schools, teachers reported spending anywhere from 10 to 40 hours preparing for school to start.

The beginning and end of the school year aren’t the only times teachers work beyond their contract requirements. They regularly spend time grading and planning lessons before or after the typical eight-hour school day.

Although the contracted work day for Blue Ash Elementary teachers is 8:15 a.m. to 4 p.m., it’s not uncommon for the work day to extend beyond that.

“If they don’t stay late, they come in early,” Ostrowski said, adding that she's often at school until about 5 p.m.

For Julie Bell, math department chair at Mariemont High School, the daily workload is even more time-intensive.

“It’s not uncommon for me to spend two to three hours a night grading papers … and just planning for the next day,” she said.

The amount of time spent working outside school hours depends on the subject taught and individual teaching style, Bell said. While math teachers often have daily assignments to assess, language arts teachers may not dole out homework as frequently but will spend hours at a time grading essays.

Teachers also spend hours on school-related tasks in the summer days, between clearing out their classrooms and setting them up for the next school year.

“The learning does not stop when the school year ends,” Bell said.

Teachers often take advantage of the additional time in June and July by attending workshops, working on master’s degrees, taking continuing education courses, reading and researching.

Kindergarten teacher Julie Koehler and her fellow teachers at Terrace Park Elementary this summer will read “Mindset” and discuss the book throughout the 2016-17 school year. She also will take a classroom management class, take the Praxis test to finalize her reading endorsement for her master’s degree, and work with other kindergarten teachers in Mariemont City School District to plan a new initiative for the coming school year.

Bell is looking forward to traveling, spending time with family and helping her daughter plan her wedding. In between the down time, though, she’ll be busy collaborating with other teachers, gathering materials for next school year and taking students on a global leadership summit in the Netherlands and London.

Because educators often teach different subjects and grade levels from year to year, they also must take time to study the material they’ll be teaching the following school year.

“A lot of the time is spent becoming an expert at your field,” Galbreath said.

Between reading, doing research and attending workshops, she estimates she spends at least 50 percent of her summer on work-related endeavors.

While the summer comes with an unofficial workload some might not be aware of, it does allow teachers a bit of a break.

“We are working here and there throughout the summer, but it is a slower pace,” Koehler said. “It’s just so wonderful to have, you know, that little break, that down time to spend time with family.”