What Do Teachers REALLY Do Over Summer Break?

Did you ever wonder what your teachers did over the summer as a kid? It’s rather mysterious from a child’s perspective. They spend half their waking hours ten months of the year in the same building, the same classroom, with their teacher. Then, from one day to the next, life gets flipped on its rear for the both of them. It’s tough for kids to understand that their teacher has a life outside of the four walls of their classroom, but many adults don’t understand what goes on during the average teacher’s summer break either.

Living in a country where our public education system always seems to be under a great deal of public scrutiny, I’ve heard a lot of guff about teachers getting more than two months of vacation per year. Opponents to teachers’ summer breaks often times bring up how it only makes sense that teacher salaries are as abysmal as they are since they only work between nine and ten months a year.

I spoke with several teachers in my district to get an idea of what they do during the summer. Here’s what I found they had planned.

Mourning and Meetings

Most every teacher I spoke to was, at the very least, a tiny bit sad to see their class go. While many of my interviewees had already come to terms with sending their class on to the next teacher to continue their education, some of them have a tougher time letting go. There were definitely tears shed from several staff members on the last day of school where these educators teach. A few even said that the first couple weeks of summer are usually a difficult adjustment period.

Emotional upheaval aside, there are often meetings to attend at the conclusion of the school year. Teachers and other staff spend time sharing ideas and experiences, learning about school events and professional development opportunities, and solving problems that have arisen in the school and in individual classrooms.

Reflection on the Past Year

Most of the teachers I spoke with said that they like to take a look back at the school year while it’s fresh in their minds. They work to determine what worked well this year and what they want to change for better outcomes the next year, sometimes using test scores and numerical benchmarks as the basis for these determinations and sometimes relying on more anecdotal evidence.

Planning for the Next Year

Even when a teacher stays in the same grade in the same school, there is always planning to be done during the summer. The new curriculum needs to be reviewed, assessments need to be written, and an overall plan for the following school year must be made.

New teaching methods, materials, and ideas are constantly evolving, and widespread internet access means that teachers have effective and unique ideas at their fingertips even on their own couches. Teachers from across the country are able to collaborate and share new materials on sharing sites like Wisewire to find and plan engaging digital assessments and keep up with changing standards.

Continuing Education

Many teachers spend their summer working on continuing education. States vary in their requirements for continuing education for licensure, but most all states require public school teachers to participate in continuing education of some sort. Some teachers I spoke with planned to attend seminars or courses simply to further develop their teaching skills. Summer is an ideal time for teachers to take part in that due to having a little more flexibility in scheduling. A lot of teachers use summer break to work on their higher education, taking Master’s or PhD courses.

Work Another Job

Prepare for a bit of a shock, if you would. Did you know that teachers don’t make fantastically large salaries? Probably so. It is common knowledge in our country that teacher salaries are a little puny compared to other professional careers that require similar levels of training. This means that many teachers use their summer to bolster their income. In fact, estimates in recent years say that at least 16% of teachers have a second job.

Despite doing my interviews in one of the highest paid districts in my county, I found that number to be understated. Most every teacher I spoke with takes steps to earn extra money over the summer, and some of them throughout the year, as well.

These teachers are carpenters, landscapers, restaurant servers, nannies, golf course attendants, and investment advisors in their spare time. Several teachers I spoke with also offer paid tutoring services throughout the summer.


No shock here. Educators give so much of themselves over the course of the school year. It’s obvious that many of them would volunteer throughout the summer. I found teachers who volunteer at food banks, recreational sports commissions, mentoring programs, and summer educational programs. These teachers continue to serve their students all year long through these efforts.

Other School-Related Responsibilities

Just because it isn’t the regular school year doesn’t mean many teachers aren’t still at school. Among my interviewees I found athletic and activity sponsors who would continue working with the students in their programs through the summer and summer school teachers. Pay for these sorts of positions oftentimes falls well short of the actual hours these educators put in.

Taking an Actual Vacation

It is summer, after all. The nice weather means that everyone, not just teachers, are looking for a little time off to relax and recuperate. However, I only met with one teacher who takes any type of extended vacation and it is more of a visit with family out of state. I’m told their families love the possibility of their teaching loved one having time to offer their full attention, if only for a couple weeks.

Prep Classroom

At some point between the end of the typical full-school cleanup and the beginning of the coming school year, teachers spend time getting their classrooms ready. This includes optimizing seating arrangements for learning, exploring alternative seating options, decorating, hanging learning materials, and crafting new classroom items or refinishing classroom furniture. Many teachers I spoke with spend at least a couple weeks planning out their classrooms and executing their new design.

Teacher Summers in a Nutshell

While they may not spend the entirety of their summer in the classroom, there’s still work to be done for teachers during the summer. Their students, both past and future, stay in their hearts and on their minds.

How do you spend your summers? Share your experience in the comments below.