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Summer no vacation for many teachers

Tim Larsen, Kaneland High School teacher and tennis coach, works with participants of a summer tennis camp Monday at the school.
Tim Larsen, Kaneland High School teacher and tennis coach, works with participants of a summer tennis camp Monday at the school.

Although the St. Charles School District 303 school year ended weeks ago, East High School educator Andrew Johnson is returning to the classroom for six weeks to teach government to  seniors.

Meanwhile, Tim Larsen, a math teacher at Kaneland High School, will spend about 20 days this summer running practices with the varsity girls tennis team in his capacity as coach.

Their peers likely are busying their summer with work-related activities – some paid, some unpaid – as well. For educators, local school administrators said, the summer provides time for planning and professional development.

Teacher contracts don’t reflect this work, nor do they reflect the time many educators actually put in during the school year, local administrators said.

As Greg Romaneck, chief of staff for Batavia Public School District 101, said, the contracted days and hours are – for the vast majority of teachers – the “grossest underestimate of what they work in a year.”

More than bell to bell

A typical school day for Johnson begins at 6 a.m. so he can make photocopies, create presentations, finish grading students’ work and complete other tasks needed for the day, he said.

After the final bell rings, he might stay until 5 p.m. to plan with another teacher, do some grading and prepare for an upcoming unit. And, if his duties as track coach call for it, he might not leave until 6 or 7 p.m.

Contractually, his time commitment to the school is 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“As teachers,” Johnson said, “we love what we do. So, to us, even though we’re putting in extra hours, we don’t do it begrudgingly.”

While Romaneck said it is foolish to think teaching is an easy job, that doesn’t mean educators are the hardest workers in society. Plenty of other jobs are difficult and have lots of time demands.

Even so, he said, if he were to choose between being a 12-month administrator or a nine-month teacher, he would pick the administrative position.

“From an energy standpoint, it takes far more energy to be a teacher nine months than a central office administrator for 12 months,” Romaneck said.

“You’re always performing. Most performers don’t go on unprepared.”

A working summer

Teaching can be draining, Romaneck said, so many educators will take time off in the summer to recapture their energy.

But others, especially younger educators, will work on master’s degrees during summer break, and others might teach summer school.

School improvement work, curriculum development and training also are conducted in the summer.

Several hundred St. Charles teachers are meeting at North High School this summer to learn the district’s new math curriculum, said Superintendent Don Schlomann.

Meanwhile, others are meeting at Wredling Middle School to plan a new consumer technology curriculum that should be implemented in the 2013-14 school year.

This week, about 20 staff members from Kaneland School District 302 were expected to attend a two-day workshop focused on accountability principles in Batavia, Superintendent Jeff Schuler said. Kaneland teachers are also attending workshops on the Common Core standards, and others will meet informally to get ready for next year.

Some summer work will be paid, Schuler said, but the vast majority of it is unpaid.

“It is just something they’re doing out of their desire to make sure that they’re prepared for the next school year,” Schuler said.

In Geneva, elementary school teachers start preparing their classrooms after July 4, said Craig Collins, assistant superintendent for human resources at Geneva School District 304.

In addition to arranging their room in a way that makes sense for them, teachers also might prepare newsletters for parents and make sure they have adequate materials for the first day of school.

Larsen said he, too, likely will make frequent trips to Kaneland High School as the school year nears. He uses that time for organizational- and maintenance-related tasks that generally are neglected during the year for more pressing tasks, such as grading and lesson plan writing.

Amounts teachers are contracted to work

• 183 days – St. Charles School District 303
• 182 days – Batavia Public Schools District 101
• 181 days – Geneva School District 304
• 180 days – Kaneland School District 302

Source: Bargaining agreements

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