Fact 1: Teachers get a summer vacation.
Fact 2: Teacher still get their paychecks during summer.
Fact 3: Teachers get money while not working.
Fact 4: Getting paid while not working sounds an awful lot like Early Retirement.
My district has done some rearranging with the yearly schedules, leaving summer vacation at “only” 6 weeks. In lieu of a longer summer, we now get a week off in October, 3 weeks for Christmas, and 2 weeks for Spring Break. So teachers in my school district, in addition to the normal holidays like Veteran’s, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and Thanksgiving, get 12 weeks off a year. 12 weeks out of 52. We get almost 1/4 of every year off from work while still getting paid*.
SO this makes me ask: are teachers already early retired for a quarter of every year? Are teachers ever NOT working? Should teachers be taking this glorious time off to live life as we see fit? Should teachers be using this time to side hustle? Let’s find out.
Are teachers early retirees for 1/4 year every year already?
Answer: If you are like me, then chances are you are already staying pretty busy during these times off. Throughout the year I’m usually busy with school, coaching (Girl’s Soccer coming up!), running, and, lately, my Master’s degree. That means that when I’m on break throughout the year I use the time to catch up with friends and family. I usually like to travel (although I don’t too much because I’m trying to save), I like to read, and I like to just sit and think for a brief minute of repose.
Does this sound like early retirement to you? Sitting around, hanging out with friends and family, reading, eating, traveling? I think so. Indeed, I think teachers are in a very lucky position in terms of Early Retirement. We can already claim part of our year for ourselves.
Are teachers ever NOT working?
Many teachers don’t take much time off during the breaks at all. Some of them get other jobs, like realty. Some just take more classes to get their credit to maintain their licenses. Some coach or teach (summer school anyone? I just signed up for summer 2017**.) But really, despite all this, we still get much more time off than the average 9-5 desk job.
And while it is easy to complain that we work a lot during the school year, during these breaks we do have an enormous amount of time on our hands. And, arguably, this time is the same as it would be in retirement–we get space to free ourselves. We get to do what we want (as long as it fits in the time frame).
The time we do work, I’ll admit, is fairly extreme. And it isn’t only the kids that have homework. A recent study stated,
78 per cent [of teachers] said they spent every Sunday afternoon preparing classes for the coming week and that 48 per cent of their time is spent preparing classes compared to being in the classroom with pupils.
Wait, don’t all professionals spend a few hours on Saturday and Sunday prepping their work for the upcoming week? Doesn’t everybody bring student work home to grade? Oh wait, most people get to LEAVE their jobs…
So yes, sometimes we don’t work. Sometimes we get a taste of the Financially Independent life. These glimpses never last too long, probably not even long enough to get a project like this done. But on those days when I, too, get to sleep in, make coffee, read for a while, and work on projects that are important to me, I realize how beautiful life is and how extravagant those future years of Early Retirement will be.
Should teachers take this glorious time off just to live life?
WAIT! HOLD THE PHONE! If teachers are always complaining about how little they get paid (what’s up with those guys anyway?!?), why don’t we just use these extra breaks to work? We could use another 12 weeks of the year to possible make another $7,500 (3x my monthly take home pay right now.) Boom. Put that in your Vanguard account and stop complaining, teachers!
Remember how those breaks are all broken up into segments throughout the year? Well, it turns out that it is really difficult to find a job for one or two weeks at a time. There are some side hustles (see Part 2), but really, we have these breaks for a reason. That reason? Teaching is fucking exhausting. Holy shit. I think it has to be one of the most mentally taxing and psychologically distressing careers out there. In this other article from the Washington Post, there is a poll stating that teachers work on average 53 hours a week. And most of those are dealing with kids who are simultaneously stressed out, crying, joyous, dedicated, sleepy, drunk, lost, confused, scared, inspired, behind, and ahead!
So teachers NEED some time to decompress from their work. Don’t get me wrong– I’m not saying that everyone’s job isn’t stressful. My cousin is a nurse in the ER, something I’d say is even more noteworthy, noble, and difficult than teaching. My sister-in-law works with Social Services, dealing with difficult people, hurt kids, and tough situations all around. Some friends of mine even work long hours as engineers (although they make fantastic money compared to me, so I don’t pity them too awful much.) What I am saying, however, is that while teachers get a lot of time off, they need that time to decompress.
However, most of the teachers I know, myself included, have a hard time dealing with free time. Which leads me to the last question.
Should teachers be using this time to side hustle?
Or should they enjoy their glimpses of early retirement? Of course, this is up to the individual. It depends on the family situation (I only have a brilliant wife, who really takes care of me), the money situation (I’m still saving and struggling, in a good way), and the side hustle situation (I just signed up for summer school.)
Once teachers get through those first few years, if they can actually make it, the job does tend to get a bit easier and less stressful. When this happens, if you still don’t have kids, and you still aren’t FI, then you should start investigating prolonging those mini-early-retirements to save for that final, longest retirement.
It is up to you. Personally, I’m scrounging to work and hustle as much as possible. I’m coaching every sport they’ll let me, I’m signing up for every Saturday stipend class, every workshop, every extra duty. I’m working through my Master’s to get a pay bump. I’m down to hustle. But just because I am doesn’t mean most teachers are.
Let me know what you do. Do you enjoy your mini-early-retirement? Or do you save, scrounge, hustle and hunt for that final retirement?
*Getting paid during time off is interesting. Really, your pay for the hours you do work is simply being spread out across multiple months. But, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So, I say we get paid every month.
**I’m pretty pumped to work this summer school gig. I believe it will only be a few weeks, maybe 5 at most. This leaves a week or so to take a break, but also enough time to make the work worth it. I might even be able to make a few thousand to put towards those student loans! I’ll get back to you on the developments of this summer hustle.