8 Reasons Why Teachers Should Use Their Time Off

Oct 26, 2014 | Teacher Wisdom | 44 comments

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?

Related Posts:  99 Things Teachers Really Want for Christmas and An Open Letter to Teachers Who Bully Other Teachers.

44 Comments

  1. Matt

    You’re my hero. #2 was perfectly said. My wife is nervous about taking a week for us to go to Disney World in early December 2018 when there is no crowd. Though she is entitled to 12 days off so they can’t hold it against her.

    Reply
  2. Monica Horn

    You are lucky to have personal time. Each teacher, no matter how long in the district, gets 2 personal days each year… We can bank them up to 5, but need to pay our sub on day 4 and 5.

    Reply
  3. Andrea

    You are very lucky your district allows this! I’m terribly jealous 🙂 It’s terribly discouraging to not be able to take days off for anything other than illness. Sometimes we have one of those classes and just need a mental health day. As a teacher with young children I have felt guilted for taking days off when I’m sick or with my sick children. I even had a parent call in once asking if teachers are normally absent so frequently after I had missed two days in two weeks to be with my family while my father in law died from complications from a stroke. Teaching is a JOB. Yes it tends to be one we feel called to do and most are very passionate about it. But I am a person too. A mother and a wife with children and a family. I have always felt a need to advocate for young children and a call to invest in our future through children. But I have also realized as a mother that the most important people I invest in are my children and if that means taking days off to be with them when I’m needed then so be it.

    Reply
  4. AT

    We have eleven sick days (paid) and two personal days (we pay $100/day).

    Reply
  5. KS

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this!! I am sitting on a plane right now headed to Disney World for a long weekend and was feeling guilty for taking tomorrow off – this was just what I needed to hear!! I so appreciate it!

    Reply
    • Dana

      Oh, I love Disney! You go and enjoy yourself, you deserve it!

      Reply
    • Yoshe Leigh

      Hi. I am a teacher. I end up using all my sick days each year. . .I think. . .or most of them. . .as they do not carry over. Sometimes I use miscellaneous days as well. . .The miscellaneous leave is for circumstances out of my control like sick kids etc. . .however the sick days are not just if I am lying in a bed vomiting kind of sick. They are also mental health days. This year I have suffered with some depression and partly attributed to a poor school culture where I work where there seems to be bullying among the teachers. I am the target again it seems. . .maybe I am over sensitive. . .maybe I am doing something wrong. . .but it is stressful to always feel on the defensive and not know what Im doing wrong to make others unsympathetic towards me. . .and it is hard to come to school and get the negative thoughts out of my mind and it is stressful that I can’t relax around most other teachers because I have had rude encounters with them in the past. So I have used all my days this year. But I have been responsible in the sense that I have not booked off during important meeting days and I have always prepared for a supply. . .Either way, I feel guilty for doing it and wonder if it will look bad on me but then also how I look at it is that it is like saying to a child, you have an x amount of candy and you eat them all this year and whatever you don’t eat by this date, you can no longer have. So it is very much in the way it is presented.

      Reply
  6. C

    You must have 3 personal days to use. Just curious what your thoughts are if you only had 2 personal days per year and needed the off for Disney? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Jennifer @ Simply Kinder

      Our days were not designated at sick and personal. We got 11 days a year and it was not specified. If I were to have have 2 days – I would have found a way to still make it work. I would NEVER take dock days for a vacation (although I would if my family had issues).

      Reply
  7. Susan

    I have to respectfully disagree. As a teacher, I knew exactly what schedule I would be expected to follow when I accepted the job. In my school, personal days are only granted for certain things. We have the option to take days without pay if we choose. I have missed vacations because I have to be at work. In my opinion having the summer and holidays off is the trade off for not being able to take days off when I want. To each his own. Happy teaching!

    Reply
  8. Beth

    We are in a modified traditional schedule, so we have at least two weeks off after every quarter. Because of this, we are told that we may not use our professional time for vacations. One teacher tried to be upfront that she was taking time to go on a family trip, that her mother had arranged, because the mother had terminal cancer. The teacher was dinged in her evaluation.
    During our evaluations, we are told exactly how much time we missed the previous year. Ridiculous!

    Reply
    • Jennifer @ Simply Kinder

      I totally get it and at least your school has lots of scheduled breaks that are large. However, how sad that this teacher had to be reprimanded for spending time with her mom who had terminal cancer. Shame on them. That is sort of my point of the whole article – no place of employment should tell you they are more important than other parts of your life! Very sad.

      Reply
  9. fourcornerslife

    In New Mexico, our evaluation is docked if we miss more than 2 days, even though we are given 10 days of leave a year. Now we regularly see teachers come to school sick, which spreads to the kids and the rest of us, because they don’t want their evaluation dinged. If I choose to attend a professional event with my leave, I am still docked points on my evaluation. This affects if I send my older teen to the doctor on her own or take time off to go with her, take a day to do something special with my family, go to my own children’s school events/ceremonies/performances, etc.

    Reply
    • Jennifer @ Simply Kinder

      That’s really sad. Sigh. This makes me sad of you.

      Reply
  10. Emily Jo

    I had to take a pay cut when I got married. My district was upset, even though I told them when I interviewed WHEN my wedding was… sigh. We got married 3 months ago and we are still dealing with the paycut.

    Reply
    • Jennifer @ Simply Kinder

      Ridiculous! When you become a teacher you should not have to sacrifice your entire personal life! Happy wedding to you!

      Reply
  11. Laurie

    In our district if we take a personal day they dock our sick days also. I didn’t know this and took a day because I was going out of town to check on my dad. When I looked at my next check the day was gone from personal and sick leave. To me this seems like they don’t really want you using that personal time and if you do you are punished.

    Reply
    • Jennifer @ Simply Kinder

      Legally I don’t see how they can take 2 days from you if you only used one. You needing to take a day off to go check on your dad is exactly my point of this article, we should not feel guilty as teachers for taking a day off to be with our family. I hope your dad is ok.

      Reply
  12. Ryan

    In my Charter school we are paid out the days that we don’t use. The school budgets about $150 a day for subs (10 to each teacher) Any days I do not use I get paid the sub paid. So if I do not use 10 days I get a bonus in June-July that is $1500. If I use two days I lose $300 of that. It makes sense because if we are in school they don’t have to pay for a sub. So that money is already budgeted it for, also it does encourage teachers to come to school, which is beneficial as our students do rarely poorly for subs and there is a serious sub shortage in my area.

    Reply
    • Jennifer @ Simply Kinder

      That’s a great incentive to not use your days. Thanks for stopping by.

      Reply
  13. Jen

    You’re lucky that your district allows you to use your personal days for family vacations. Our contract is *very* specific that the three personal days we are given per year, which don’t roll over, are to complete personal business which can’t be done outside of the school day and *not* for vacation time.

    Reply
    • Jennifer @ Simply Kinder

      I am just curious how that works when someone does need to take time off for a family reunion or wedding out of state. So the district is now a judge of what is appropriate personal business and what is not? I see what you are saying I just always wonder if that would ever stand up in court if anyone did want to challenge that philosophy.

      Reply
  14. Brandy Withers

    All great points and well said! Thank you so much for the important, supportive reminder. I think as teachers we all struggle with this and our families are the ones that suffer the most from it. Feeling rejuvenated!
    Thank you!

    Brandy
    Firstie Kidoodles

    Reply
  15. Jennie Morrell

    Good for you to stand up for what you believe. I am sure there are many other teachers out there who support you. I also feel that we should be allowed to use our personal days for any personal reasons we feel fit. My system gives us 5 days per year, but they designate how we can use 3 of them (wedding, bereavement). I don’t feel that is right for us to not use them how we want.

    Reply
  16. Heidi Martinez

    I agree. I think each teacher needs to do what is best for him/her. We are allowed both sick and personal necessity days. It is all about balance. Unfortunately some teachers take weeks and abuse this, which gives the rest of us a bad name. I also think that people are forgetting about all of the extra time and effort that goes into planning for a sub so that you can take the days off. All of the rest of the professions can take vacation time, why can’t we? Not only that most of the other professions don’t have to do sub plans. They can just call in or take the time. We give so much of ourselves to our profession, I see nothing wrong with taking a few days for ourselves and our families. They should always be first. I hope you have fun.

    Reply
    • Matt

      If my wife is allowed 12 days and NOWHERE does it say how many she can take consecutively then, doggone it, she should be able to take 5 days for us to go to Disney world with our kids for 8 days (Saturday thru Saturday) and not have to worry about it. We are planning this trip for December 2018 the first week of the month when there are no crowds because like you said nobody wants to pay more money just to not be able to do nothing because everybody in the world is out of school and the crowds are just too much to handle. People who go in the summertime are miserable and the only time we have ever been to Disney World was in early December back before the kids even started kindergarten. We are only planning to make this trip one time and I don’t think her asking for one week off one time is hurting anybody. She is a speech pathologist but she does work for the school district. I hate that she feels nervous about asking for it but like you said, their jobs are no less important than the rest of us and since when does anybody who work for the government ever give a dang about quality?! So the schools should not have a bug up their butt about people who work for them wanting a week to be with their families because like you also said family comes first. What’s the point of working if you can enjoy the fruits of your labor?

      Reply
  17. Nicole Rios

    As someone who has collaborated with Jennifer before, I can say that she is a giving, encouraging, and very hard-working person. She cares not only about students, but their teachers as well. I personally don’t feel that because she puts her family first, that she is any less of a teacher at heart. This job is incredibly stressful, rewarding, demanding, and fulfilling. I think we are all better prepared to handle its challenges when we stand together.

    Reply
    • Jennifer @ Simply Kinder

      Thank you Nicole! I appreciate your support! I was a little shocked that this reply was so judgmental on my teaching ability. I don’t roll that way… but we all know some people do!

      Reply
  18. Sharon

    I must agree with you, Beth. We have numerous holidays off, summer, winter, and spring breaks, and it’s all on the tax payers dime. Personal days are given so that business can be conducted during the day when it cannot be done on weekends or after school. I consider using personal days for vacation a form of fraud. I wonder why in nine years our author has had three districts. Takes four or five years in our state to gain tenure, when tenure mattered. Also, I believe our author considers teaching just a “job”. I work with a building full of people who see teaching as their gift to give to children now and in the future. I get a strong sense of entitlement coming through from this piece. It makes me very sad for the author, and disappointed in whatever university let her get through and into my profession.

    Reply
    • Jennifer @ Simply Kinder

      To respond to your concerns individually…

      “using personal days for vacation a form of fraud” – To me fraud is giving a person a benefit and then not allow them to use it. Would it be OK for the school district to give us medical insurance and then tell us we cannot see a doctor? Uhm – no.

      “why in nine years our author has had three districts” – thanks for asking about my employment history. Let me explain because your comment assumes that I switched districts not by choice. I worked for district A and got pregnant. Salaries were frozen and with my growing family I decided to seek employment in a much higher paying district. My principal warned me that she had heard others say this district was HORRIBLE and I would regret it. I went anyways thinking I need more money to pay for my new baby. So I moved to district B. District B was horrible. Stress levels so high that at the teachers would often have mental break downs and have to go out on disability. I was forced to do things with kids that I did not believe professionally were appropriate such as teach a full years worth curriculum before December, reward kids who met set high benchmarks which meant not rewarding many who made huge personal gains, and who demanded teacher work weekends month and after school 4 days a week (like tutoring beyond our regular classroom duties.) I stayed there for several years and eventually took a HUGE pay cut to go to district C which matched my philosophy of teaching better. So my change in districts was not due to anything other than finding a good fit for me professionally!

      PS – tenure means nothing other than you are “guaranteed a job” of which I am a great teacher so I never had to worry about that.

      Reply
      • Neil

        I’ve worked with many teachers who have a “holier than thou” attitude towards those taking leave days. Honestly, that’s their choice to make, but I couldn’t disagree with that sentiment more. If surgeons can take personal days, so can teachers. If the President can take personal time, so can teachers. The kids will be fine. If the substitute teachers are not effective, that is a wholly unrelated issue to address with your district. A teacher with strong classroom management and routines should be able to leave the kids with a sub with absolutely no concerns. Life is too short to sacrifice ones family and personal needs for a job. And it is just a job; one that I am highly passionate about, but let’s drop the martyr mentality, it’s holding us back as a profession and allowing others to walk all over us.

        Reply
    • Jennifer @ Simply Kinder

      “I believe our author considers teaching just a “job” – You make that assumption off a blog post? Have you seen me teach? Have you seen any of my evaluations? I would be more than happy to fax you a copy of my last evaluation if you would like to see. How about test scores. Have you ever seen my test scores? Because 2 years ago I had 100% of my students at benchmark. Yes – you read that right… green all the way down! As a matter of fact, that was recognized by my district because it is so rare! And that happened in an ELL classroom too! And actually – it was the only ELL classroom in the grade level at that school! And in that one classroom I had 9 different languages! Pretty amazing! So to assume that because I take 3 days off to spend with my family means I am a bad teacher is very judgmental of you! Hence why I feel like every year I have to justify why I take my 3 days off to spend with my family!

      “I get a strong sense of entitlement” – I am sorry, but I do feel entitled to my employer benefits. Here are 10 days off – but oh you can’t use them. Uhm OK.. that makes a whole lot of sense! Do I take all 10 days every year? No I don’t. I actually have many days banked. Let me tell you what else I feel entitled to – my hard earned money! I am going to spend my money on vacation at a time when I am going to get the most out of it! For me that’s an early November family vacation every year.

      ” It makes me very sad for the author” – Please don’t feel sad for me. I am an amazing teacher, a great mom, and a great wife. I put my family first and I won’t let others make me feel bad for doing so. Do I love my students? Absolutely! I care about them academically and personally and I feel that 99% of the families who have had their children in my classroom would agree that I did their kids great!

      “I work with a building full of people who see teaching as their gift to give to children now and in the future” – So the message you are trying to tell me is that because I take 3 days off to spend with my family that I do not see my time with students as a gift and that because you refuse to take days off that you do? And that I don’t care about these children’s future because I went to Disneyland? Have you thought out about this… what if my husband was a teacher and we had differing schedules? Would we have to pick which students were more important as to not lose precious teacher time? Or we should just not go all together? Sorry to my own kids… we can’t go on vacation because mommy and daddy are teachers!

      “disappointed in whatever university let her get through and into my profession” – Again very judgmental of you. I actually went through an honors program where I was selected as 18 out of 300+ applicants. I graduated proudly with a 4.0 GPA. I hold a masters degree in early childhood of which I also graduated with honors! I am about 2 credits shy of a principalship.. of which I decided not to finish because I don’t think I want to be a principal so I did not complete. To assume that because I want to take 3 vacation days to spend time with my family means my college is letting the world down – come on! Seriously! Does that have any effect on my ability to teach? 3 days out 180?

      And lastly.. I don’t mind differing opinions on my site, but what I do mind it rudeness and passing judgement on other people. You could have very easily got your message across without being so rude.

      Reply
      • Neil

        If anything, you’re a great teacher, in part, because you have a sense of work-life balance. Many teachers do not, unfortunately, and it comes across in their work. I would be willing to bet that districts with generous leave provisions also have more motivated, engaged staff who get results.

        Reply
    • Kim

      Sorry, but all the holidays off are not on the taxpayers dime. My teaching contract is for 187 days a year. That means that summer, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring break are not paid holidays. What other career has full-time employees that have no paid holidays?

      Reply
      • Jennifer @ Simply Kinder

        Your teaching contract states you have 187 work days and I would venture to bet your contract also states you get so many days off a year (however your district designates them) as well as other benefits. If your school district did not want you to have time off then they should not have given them to you in your contract as well. And by your theory, teachers should have days off because we only work 187 days year… technically we can schedule doctors appointments, our own children’s performances, and whatnot during our other non teacher contracted days. I am sorry.. but that’s unrealistic and unfair.

        Reply
  19. Beth Ailinger

    I’m very surprised your school allows this, mine does not. I disagree when families take kids out of school every year for a Disney trip and I don’t think teachers are any different. I chose teaching. I have summers and three weeks during the year, more than many other careers. I’m disappointed.

    Reply
    • Jennifer @ Simply Kinder

      Thank you for disagreeing in a respectful manner. =) This is just one of my things about teaching. Maybe it’s because I had a career in the business world before I became a teacher. I don’t know.. but I feel very strongly this days off are a benefit and they cannot deny you to use your benefits. Legally.. they just cannot do that.

      Reply
  20. Nicole Louks

    I was forced to resign a couple of years ago from my school district. One of their arguments against me was that I always used all of my personal days. Seriously.

    Reply
    • Jennifer @ Simply Kinder

      I have never been in trouble for taking days off. I usually end up taking no more than 6 or 7 a year and so I have a good bank of days off. Part of me wonders if someone were to legally challenge this if it would stand in court… giving of a benefit and then punishing people for doing it. It just does not sound right!

      District B (as described below) did hold some of your yearly performance money if you went over a certain number of days off a year. But it only effected your payout and never your performance evaluation.

      I am sorry that this happened to you and hope you found a much better district to work in.

      Reply
    • Matt

      That’s actionable to let someone go for using days off that are in your contract no matter the reason for taking time off.

      Reply
  21. Carrie H

    I love it that my district doesn’t guilt us! And we don’t have to pretend to be sick!

    Reply
    • Jennifer @ Simply Kinder

      You bring up a good point. It is a common practice of teachers to call in sick and go do personal things! We all know people who have done that. We should not have to lie about about what we are doing because we are afraid people will think we don’t put our students first!

      Reply
  22. Luv My Kinders

    I couldn’t agree more with you. I take 3 days off every year in the beginning of March for a annual family vacation. That is usually the only time I miss besides a few PD days so I don’t feel guilty one bit. That time with my family and boys is a priority for me. They are already teenagers, I don’t have much time left with them at home, so I am making good use of what I do have.

    ~Laura
    Luv My Kinders

    Reply

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