My family is getting ready to take our annual family trip to Disneyland. This time of year, I tend to go off on a rant about why it is okay for teachers to take time off.
Let me start by saying this post is not intended to encourage teachers to use their time off irresponsibly. In schools today teachers are often highly discouraged from using thier earned/granted time off and I just feel that there is a part of it that is wrong. Each school and district has it’s own designation of sick, personal, or time of days allotted each year and I am only trying to suggest that if teachers need to use a sick day they should or if they want to use a personal day they should as well. In no other profession I know are people given a benefit and then told they cannot use it. I feel like we work with children and so by nature we are kind hearted people and I feel like by discouraging teachers to use time off is taking advantage of the fact that teacher genuinely want what is best for students! That being said, here are the reasons why I take some of my days off every year for family vacation and why I feel it’s okay for your to as well!
1. Because my family is more important than my career! Does that mean my students are not important? Absolutely not! But it does mean my family is important too and I strive to have a good balance of home and work and you all should too. The quaintly of education you provide to your students is not determined by who works the most hours!
2. Because vacation is expensive. My family goes to Disneyland every year. I am not going to pay to go to Disneyland and go when the rest of the world is out of school. The lines, the weather, the events in the park are all factors on when we decide to go. It’s expensive and we want to get the most out of our experience. We strategically go a certain time every year, and it has yet to fall around major spring, fall, or summer breaks.
3. Because teachers often work 10-12 hour days. Teaching is exhausting and we deserve a break too. I put a lot of time into my classroom all year long that is outside of my contract time. Any teacher will tell you planning for a substitute is probably more work than just staining in the classroom and teaching! It’s okay for me to take some mental health time and for my students to have a substitute!
4. Because it’s good to get a break. I love my students and I love teaching but that does not mean that if I take a day or two off that I love them any less. It also does not mean I am any less effective of a teacher. I would argue having a balanced life makes me more effective! But those who do take time off are often made to feel bad for doing so and it’s not right. We are more than just teachers – we are parents, spouses, siblings, etc. Sometimes you just need a break!
5. Because my schedule as a teacher should not always dictate the plans of the rest of my family. My children do go to the school in which I work. And my husband cannot always take days off around my scheduled breaks. Sometimes when we go on vacation we go with other members of our extended family or with friends. Everybody has schedules to juggle and just because I am a teacher does not mean that my schedule overrides theirs. It’s a give and take and if I am able to schedule something during a break, I of course will. But if not, then we do what is best for my family overall.
6. Because your time off is a benefit offered to you and budgeted into their business plan. FTE is what an employer pays to have a Full Time Employee (FTE) on staff. It calculates your benefits including medical insurance, your sub days, and other fees they pay to have you employed there. Employers allot a higher price per FTE than that person’s salary to cover all the costs of employing that person. In other words, although your salary is $40K a year, it actually costs the district $65k (not a real number) to employ you. Businesses plan for you to use your time because it is a benefit just the same as they plan for you to use your insurance. Part of me wonders if there is anything they can do about it because it is a benefit.
7. Because school budget issues have changed over the years. Does your district have this problem? Essentially, many districts only allot so much money for substitutes. Often by the end of the year, all the sub money is gone. Teachers are then forced to split classes instead of getting subs when they are gone. So many school districts highly discourage you to use your time unless it is absolutely necessary. 10-15 years ago did we ever roll our eyes at teachers who took time off? I don’t remember this. It was the crash of the economy (IMO) that put strain on school budgets to the point that they had to start cutting back and watching what they spend. So they cut back on how many sub days they give schools but did not cut back on the amount of days they give teachers. So essentially they are saying you can have 10 days off each year if you need but we will only provide you coverage for 6 of them. Guilt factor kicks in and the mindset starts to change that we cannot use our days!
8. Because I don’t plan on retiring as a teacher. Many districts will only allow you to trade time off days for retirement points. Just being honest, I don’t see myself in the public education system for the next 22 years let alone in the same district that long. I just feel as if there is something else out there for me in education. And who is to say in 22 years when I have enough points to retire that this option will still be there.
There you have it – why I feel it’s OK for me to use my days off as a teacher! For the last 9 years and through 3 school districts I have taken up to 3 days off every November to go to Disneyland. Although I have had many conversations with administrators and other teachers about why they feel it’s not okay to use my time off, it has NEVER effected any of my evaluations or any of my test scores.
I am not trying to tell you to use your days irresponsibly. I always have a bank of days to use when necessary. And I am by no means saying take 100% of your days each year. The districts I have worked in either have no distinction on why you are out or have a portion of the days designated as personal days. Even though we have these personal days, many teachers choose not to use them and they do not roll over to the next year. And I am not calling in sick and going to Disneyland – I am honest and upfront about what I am doing. We all know people who do this (and many of us pass judgement on them). They don’t always like it but it has never been held against me. I am hopeful teachers are able to be honest and upfront as I have been. Just because it’s discouraged does not mean it is not doable. We as teachers should not feel guilty for taking 3 days off to spend with our families.
What happens where you work? Are you allowed to take your time off? Do you feel it’s okay for you to do so?