Don't ever make the mistake of telling teachers they have a great job because their summers are free.
That assumption can kill a previously pleasant conversation - and begin the windup to a session of debunking other misconceptions about K-12 educators.
But still, people do wonder what those who teach do with all that "free" time. Images of silenced alarm clocks and leisurely jaunts through bestsellers pop into mind.
Tell that to the teacher working the sausage stand for 11 hours at a pop, or the one stocking shelves in the local bookstore, however, and they may want to spend a moment setting you straight. (See story, page 16.)
Teachers' salaries being what they are - low, on average -it should come as no surprise that a lot of teachers work for pay during "vacation."
David Henderson, an education professor at Houston State University, surveys Texas teachers biennially on their moonlighting ventures, among other things. At least in the Lone Star State, your local lawn-care provider, envelope stuffer, waitress, or paper-delivery engineer may be able to tell you anything you want to know about Pearl Harbor, or help your kid with fractions. And don't rule out asking nearby cosmetologists, cake designers, Army Reserve officers, bus drivers, or concierges if they can answer a science or English query. More than a few of them are teachers, too.
For some, it's a break from an intense school-year routine, and the pay is often better than teaching summer school. And there still may be time for seminars that energize them for the fall (see stories, right).
As any teacher will tell you, be careful about your assumptions.
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor