Are you a teacher looking for other jobs with summers off? If you’re considering leaving teaching but afraid of losing that months-long summer vacation, you’re not alone. Many teachers consider having the summers off as one of the greatest perks of the job, as a time to recover from the school year and enjoy life. And for many teachers, having a work schedule that aligns with their children’s schooling is a top priority. In this episode, we’ll dive into this topic and even hear from former teachers on how they felt their first summer on the clock.
Listen to the episode in the podcast player below, or find it on Apple Podcast or Spotify.
Will I miss my summers off?
Welcome to The Teacher Career Coach Podcast. I’m your host, Daphne Gomez.
Am I going to regret losing the summers off? This is one of the most common questions that I receive. Unlike many other parts of the career change journey from teaching, this answer’s going to vary from person to person. It just depends on circumstances and your specific situation, your career goals, and your own personal level of burnout.
When it comes to considering a career pivot, giving up summer and other extended breaks is one of the first big mental roadblocks that you face. I’m sure heard it from those outside of the profession. “Oh, it must be so nice to have summers off.” You probably have heard it a million times by now.
Having an extended period of time off is one of the biggest perks that’s talked about for this profession. So it makes a lot of sense that it’s one of the bigger drawbacks of leaving the profession as well.
In this episode, I’m going to dive into all things about losing your summers off for a new role. I’ll share more of my own personal story of transitioning into a different work schedule. How to decide if it’s a non-negotiable for you. And even share from former teachers who are parents to hear their insight on how this change works with their family.
My Experience with having Summers Off
I wanted to start a little bit with my own personal story. While I was still teaching, I would’ve probably told you that I freaking loved having a spring break and summers off. I went on vacations with my friends – I went on road trips, hikes. I posted these like cute teachers gone wild photos, celebrating what I had that other workers didn’t.
And looking back, I think was definitely like feeding myself a narrative of having it great. To help me overcome some of the concern that I had subconsciously that I had made the wrong choice in my career. Because honestly, even after having weeks off, I never was truly myself. Which was one of the main reasons I knew that I really needed to get out.
Even after the first year, weekends were filled with Sunday scaries and summer was filled with summer scaries. I had a full-on body reaction when it came to thinking of the date I needed to return back to work. Or when I needed to start cleaning up inside of my classroom or looking at the curriculum or starting to decorate.
I would remember feeling never truly relaxed or refreshed. I just had kind of turned into a different, less happy version of myself. Even during those really happy moments like traveling and being on vacation. This was not something I’d experienced with any of my other jobs. And I kept normalizing it and teaching. But it was also really hard to see how low I had gotten until I was out on the other side and started to actually feel better.
Workplace Stress – Even during Breaks
I crawled to the last days of school before break and I barely made it to the weekends. So yeah, it did feel great when I was released from that extreme discomfort. But feeling great because you’re relieved from extreme discomfort and stress is not the same as just feeling great.
I was constantly anxious and stressed out. Anytime I saw back to school materials, my heart sank. Not a, “Oh gosh, I am not ready to go back to school feeling,” but like a true feeling of dread. Also, this is just my own personal experience. It might not be how bad you feel.
This is not a competition on who feels the worst. And you do not have to feel as bad as I did to still want to make a career change. I want to make sure I say that. But if losing summers off is impacting you, it’s going to be dependent on your level of burnout on how you actually feel during those vacation times. So if you do want to hear a little bit more about why I felt so stressed in my own personal story, I do share more details of that and more on why I personally left teaching back in episode 17.
How much stress? And how often?
I have plenty of teacher friends who are stressed, but not as stressed as I just expressed. So if this doesn’t sound like you at all, it’s okay. If you find that you have more happy days than sad, it might be time to really sit down and reflect on that. You will always be really excited about the opportunity to have a vacation, no matter how happy you are at work because that’s human nature, really. Vacations are great and you will always be a teeny-tiny bit bum to go back to work. Some days going back are going to feel harder than others, just depending on what’s been going on at work.
What I want you to really think about is how often this impacts you in your weekly basis. Or on your every year during your summer breaks. How often the days are bad versus good?
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Leaving Teaching
If you are still weighing whether you want to leave based on this, I do not want to downplay the amount of stress thrown on your plate if you taught during the 2020 and 2022 school year. But you might want to think back and remember any summers off in the past prior to those years. But if by the time you are listening to this episode, things *knock on wood* are looking better for the state of education.
And like I said, it’s so hard to see things clearly when you are stuck in the middle of extreme burnout. So I want to make sure that I address this to anyone who has that concern as well. If you aren’t sure, you may want to actually reach out to a trusted friend or a loved one and see if they feel like you are truly “yourself” even during those vacation times. Because this was something that I did not realize how much I had changed, just due to that long-term stress.
Anticipating Burnout & Fear of Change
The next thing that I want to talk about is feeling really scared to go into any environment. That’s going to be more stressful and trying to yourself from burning out even more than you already are. And just because you don’t get summers off in your next job, doesn’t actually mean that you’re going to be more stressed or burned out in the next role. Any change is going to feel scary. You’re going to have a change in environment. You’re going to have a change in a work schedule. And I do talk about changes and fears of changes a lot in episode 58. Which I also recommend you go back and listen to if you haven’t already.
But on top of just like the regular change being scary factor, you’re going to have these external voices who are telling you how “nice” it must be to have such a relaxing work schedule. Which can become confusing and be unintentionally tricking you into feeling that you have nothing valid to complain about.
Not All Teachers Take Summers Off
So the first thing I want to talk about, about losing summers off is many teachers, probably many of you listening right now, don’t even really take summers off. So this is going to be personal depending on your situation. But if you have to work a second job to pay your bills during the summer, going into a career field where a single job replaces both income streams, it’s probably a pretty obvious win on taking things off of your plate.
And I’m going to break something down for you for those who are just working a single job also. None of you may need to hear this, but just in case, it’s something that you’re really struggling with.
Regular employees work 50 weeks a year. Where teachers work an average of like 40 weeks a year. But those regular employees work 40 hours per week. And that’s spread out pretty evenly throughout the year. There are going to be deadlines at every company. And if you haven’t worked in any sort of corporate environment, it’s really easy to assume that deadlines are going to be this really super stressful, huge project that’s going to be taking over your weeknights or taking over your entire life.
Every company is going to be different. It’s important to look at employee retention and satisfaction surveys found on websites like Glassdoor to understand the expectations and the company culture. But I do very rarely hear from former teachers who find themselves more stressed out in their new positions. Just due to work expectations.
Working in Sprints
Many companies that I’ve worked for and even team Teacher Career Coach operate in what’s called sprints. Sprints are specific timeframes when deliverables are supposed to be met. They’re usually short. So they’re like weekly, sometimes monthly, but they just really help from a project management perspective to make sure everything is working and on schedule.
Let’s say within a week you may be asked to upload a specific amount of written content pieces if you’re a content writer. Or book 30 discovery calls with clients if you’re an SDR. Or help launch a new website if you’re part of the project management or website team. And that’s often your entire job, doing this specific job during a specific timeframe and asking for help as needed from your team while you do so.
Teachers on average work 50 to 60 hours per week instead of that 40 hours per week that I just talked about. And everything is crushed together, and you do not get that in a lot of jobs that are not teaching. There are basically like 1 million little tiny sprints built into your teaching role.
It’s preparing for the first day of school, rolling out new curriculum or classroom management strategies, parent-teacher conference, back to school nights, grading. Literally prepping yourself and planning those days on holidays when the students are fed like any amount of sugar, your teacher evaluations, all the testing.
All of these sprints take a lot of energy and probably some recovery time. And that recovery time, as teachers, never really happens. Because every night, morning and weekend is also spent working on other things instead of recovering. All of our tasks to get these tasks done are done outside of a full work day of teaching children most of the time.
Working on School & Other School-Related Projects During Summer
I am certain many of you often work on other types of projects, even during your “summers off”. So many former teachers find themselves transferring into these new work environments, and they’re actually able to recover from their teaching job at their new job. Doing one job during your work hours is far less stressful than doing 1,000 jobs and working outside of your contract out hours. There are many jobs where you don’t need it for your wellbeing.
That feeling of drowning at all times, and barely gasping for air at the end of every week or at any break that you have. That’s not normal and that’s not the way that humans are supposed to live.
The Shift to Working on Major Projects instead of a Million Minor Ones
I realized this after I left teaching and I was working for some pretty big impressive projects, that sounded really scary and intimidating. I was sent to speak in front of hundreds of people at national conferences on behalf of a really large company. There would be people filming me. It would cost them a lot of money for this company to put me in front of an audience with flights and hotels and the fees associated with having me there.
We had weekly meetings to prepare, and sometimes I didn’t initially feel confident on what I was asked to present on when they gave me the subject matter, but I had plenty of time to learn it. I never ended up feeling like I was constantly putting out fires in the same way my last teaching job had trained me to feel.
Flexible or Unlimited PTO
Another question to ask yourself is if you have a significant other and they have to work year round. Are you really able to take the same time off? Many companies are adopting more flexible and sometimes unlimited paid time off. The truth is this is just such a great way to recruit and retain top talent. So not only is it a desirable benefit in nature, but it gives everyone the chance to focus on rest and relaxation when needed instead of just totally burning out.
This is foreign to teachers who stress out over the ability to take a single sick day or mental health day. I’ve seen people who have had to write down notes on exactly why they are taking that sick day or text messages from their principals, telling them that there’s not going to be subs. And so that they’re not allowed to take days just for grieving. That’s not a trend in the corporate world.
My First Experience with Using PTO in the Corporate World
Jonathan and I took a full-week trip and we hiked the narrows in Utah while I was working for another ed tech company as an instructional designer. This was right at the time when all the students went back to school. I started to really schedule vacations around school so that I knew that it would be less crowded, cheaper, and we’d just be able to enjoy our vacations a little bit more.
Traveling whenever has been a blessing. And I was nervous to actually ask for it from my managers. But then I watched coworker’s take three weeks paid vacations to Europe and I realized that the company meant it. Unlimited paid time off, as long as you are asking and making sure that they have advanced knowledge and it’s not around any really busy times for the company.
Taking Time During Slower Periods
If you’re working for an ed tech company, usually summers are slower for professional development until right before back to school. But summers are busier when it comes to sales. Depending on when you would be talking to the instructional coaches or the admin or whoever’s purchasing. So there are different times that, depending on what type of company, are going to be easier for you to take time off.
All you have to do is check the company’s career pages. And usually they talk about the benefits or this would be a great thing for you to look on Glassdoor as well, to see if this is something that other employees are saying is a benefit of working for the company.
Losing Summers Off for Families
One huge factor that I do not want to ignore or downplay is losing summers off with your children. Because I do not have kids of my own, I really didn’t want to answer any of these questions and just assume that I knew what I was talking about. So I reached out to former teachers in my community and I wanted to ask them specifically how their transition went.
I’ve worked at companies that are very flexible with parents, especially those that are working remotely. And they allow them to block off their schedules for 30 minutes to pick up their kids. Or we would have calls even when they were commuting to go to school.
Businesses are offering work from home remote options for a wide variety of positions. So whether you are fully or partially remote, this offers a lot of flexibility. Additionally, in fully remote positions, companies do not frequently require you to be working the traditional 9:00 to 5:00 hours. So you do have an opportunity to adapt much of your work schedule to your needs.
What Parents are Saying
When I talked to the former are teachers who are parents, here are a couple trends that I saw in their answers.
First, they said that they either did need to pay for camp or daycare. Or they actually saved money because their kids were home while they worked remotely. Instead of having someone have to take care of their kids, because they actually used to commute to their school.
One teacher told me that she actually needed to her two-year-old in daycare anyway. To keep a spot because daycare was really challenging to get into. Many who said that they have older children, that their older children are pretty independent. And so they just focused on afternoons or night family activities during the summer.
Another thing that I saw that was a trend is the perk of having more flexibility throughout the week. If they have a two-hour doctor appointment or they need to do laundry, they can do it throughout the week. Or ask for the time off without the same amount of pressure put on them as they felt when they were teaching.
The Quality and Amount of Time with Your Kids
So that feeling of “missing time” doesn’t seem applicable. Because they were finding so much time elsewhere throughout the week that made up for it when they actually were able to rest and relax during summers off in these vacations. They said that they’re not as frazzled in this situation, that they’re truly relaxed during their weekends. They’re no longer thinking about work even on week nights, and it impacts their relationship with their kids year round.
They said that time isn’t as rigid at most of their new positions. Like I mentioned before, they’re able to get that time off to support their kids when they have soccer games or when they want to actually go pick them up from school.
Some said that they were actually finally able to do holiday activities for the first time now that they are in these new positions. Because the last few holidays they spent while teaching, they felt like crying the entire time. And they were not able to be truly present there for their kids either. So this is, they’re still getting the summers and they’re still getting holidays off, but they’re finding that they have better quality of holidays off in this environment.
Most of them said that they are just able to be parents to their kids. Which relieved them from some of the guilt that they felt spending all of their energy being parents to other people’s kids. And then feeling drained by the time they got home or when it came to these breaks.
Overall Happiness > Summers Off
One former teacher had a really great quote. She said that she had all of her colleagues jump to the exact same question when she told them that she was leaving teaching. And her response was, “Other professionals do this all the time, pretty much in every other profession.”
She’s going to figure out what she could do with her kids during the summer. Because having a mom who is overall happier, more energized and way less stressed, is far more beneficial for her daughter than just having summers off.
These were all actually taken from a thread of the most helpful sweetest, former teachers helping me on LinkedIn. So if you want to see this thread or connect with any of the former teachers to follow up and learn more, you can find me Daphne Gomez on LinkedIn, and just go and search my late posts and find this thread.
Alternative Summer Scheduling
The best thing to do is use pay time off for vacations. But if you do have a vacation every year, and for some reason you are not able to take that time off, this is not ideal. But like we said, with that flexible environment, if you’re working remotely, there is a potential that you could work four hours early in the morning from the hotel and then finish your work after a day at the beach. You could potentially be working from a cabin while your children are hiking and then be able to meet up with them for lunch or dinner.
I’ve worked from Airbnbs. I’ve worked from sleeping on boats. My manager worked from Australia for a month while she visited her family. All of these are dependent on the work culture, but they are not entirely uncommon for positions outside of the classroom, which is probably a huge culture shock coming from that work environment where we are not allowed to use the restroom.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Giving Up Summers Off
This might not be you. The stories that I told about the parents who are on holidays, that might not be you either. You may not feel the summer or Sunday scaries. You may be happier, far happier than you are unhappy. In which case, honestly, you might want to think about staying in the classroom to take advantage of this perk. Because this truly, the summer’s off, is a perk if you are in a position that you love more than you hate. And so it might be worth it for you to explore the option.
If me even putting this option out here makes your body react negatively, then you’re probably going to need to use that as a clear indicator that you have already made up your mind. But I do you always want to remind you that there is not a one-size-fits-all answer here for all of these situations.
If Having Summers Off is a Non-Negotiable
If summers off is a firm non-negotiable for you, that’s okay, too. Your options are going to be more limited. But I don’t want you to ever bend if you are 100% certain that that is something that you absolutely need.
I would encourage you explore opportunities within your school district like instructional coach positions for a change in pace and an opportunity to add more leadership to your resume. Especially if you plan to leave for long-term goals. Those types of roles really help as step stones into higher paying roles outside of the classroom.
Many teachers that I talk to have a different timeline due to a planned pregnancy or a small child at home, who they want to spend a certain amount of time off with during the next few summers. And that is okay also.
Freelancing Opportunities for Teachers
The last option you have if you are just not open to losing your summers off is explore the opportunity to start a freelance career. Total transparency, this is not as stable or easy as finding traditional full-time employment. But know that it is certainly not impossible either. Freelancing or part-time contract work is a strong trend. It allows for companies to outsource their needs without paying a full-time salary and benefits for their workers. Which means that you would have to figure out those parts for yourself.
There are many freelancing opportunities for teachers. There’s virtual assistance, there’s social media managers, there’s content and copywriters. I’ve interviewed quite a few of them on the podcast before. It’s about honing in on particular passion and skillset that you have, and turning it into a marketable service.
In freelancing/entrepreneur type jobs, you do truly get to create your own hours. Which if you are able to create enough income, could include summers off if that is what you choose. I highly encourage you to go back and listen to episode 13 of this podcast if you’re interested in exploring freelancing as a way of replacing your income.
If You Decide to Stay in Your Teaching Career
Now, whatever direction you choose to go, I’m here rooting you along the way. I would hate for you to stay in a career that is causing serious strain on your physical, mental, and emotion health if there are other solutions out there for you.
But know that if you decide to stay in the classroom, also just due to summers off, you are not alone. There are so many teachers who are in this community, who also will decide to stay. Everyone is welcome in this community. I’ll keep creating their resources these just to help you understand what’s the best decision for you to help you figure out where to go next.
If you do decide to stay in the classroom and you need support streamlining those 1 million sprints that I talked about that are built into the teaching role, I do recommend that you go back to episode 30 of the Teacher Career Coach Podcast, where I interview Angela Watson, and we talk all about creating a more sustainable work environment.
Share this Info
Now, I have a favor to ask of you if you have listened to this entire podcast and you have found it helpful. You can find the transcript of this podcast at teachercareercoach.com/podcast. Feel free to share it with other teachers when you see them asking this exact same question, so that they can have the same resource to help them make the best decision for them. Thank you so much for listening and we’ll see you on the very next episode of The Teacher Career Coach Podcast.
Mentioned in this podcast:
- 13 Jay Clouse: Freelancing for Teachers
- 17 Leaving Teaching: My Story
- 30 Angela Watson: Making Teaching a Sustainable Career
- 58 – New Job Anxiety? How Fear Holds Us Back
Related Blog: Jobs With Summers Off (Besides Teaching)
Find out about The Teacher Career Coach Course
If you’re thinking of leaving teaching…
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