We’ve all heard the age-old expression that the three best reasons for being a public school teacher are June, July and August. It makes for great faculty room humor, but about 40 percent of teachers nationwide work a second (or third) job during summer break. Whether it’s to bulk up a bank account, explore new territory or pursue a passion, a summer job can offer more than money. It can provide a break from the ordinary, a change of scenery and a chance to expand your horizons. You can use your time to develop your resumé by working with different age levels, dance styles, teaching environments or approaches. With a little creativity and planning, your summer break can be rewarding in more ways than one.
Dancing for Dinero
Before you start your summer job search, ask yourself whether you want to work as a dance teacher or try something completely different. If dance is your preference, speak to your principal, arts coordinator, personnel director or regional supervisor about arts programs at local schools. Keep in mind that many summer school programs are remedial in nature, so you might want to propose a project that incorporates literacy, math or social studies with movement to jibe with summer curricula.
Contact area dance studios, fitness centers, yoga schools, YMCAs, gyms and youth centers that may need experienced teachers to fill their summer calendars. Don’t be afraid to propose something new to their schedule, such as hip hop for kids, ballet for adults or swing for seniors. You’ve got nothing to lose and you may even plant the seed for a program in the fall.
Museums, parks and recreational centers might also be in the market for dance programs that focus on a specific theme or upcoming exhibit. Rachel Martinez, a K–3 dance teacher in Toledo, Ohio, created a summer workshop that focused on animal movements for kids in conjunction with a local zoo. Local community boards often have funding in their budgets for summer activities at playgrounds, parks or public spaces. They may be interested in a “dancin’ in the streets” or a “salsa under the stars” program.
In addition, the travel and entertainment industries are always searching for performers, choreographers and teachers to work at resorts, various events and on cruise ships. Be sure to check your union journals as well as the trade papers, such as Back Stage and Show Business, for job postings and auditions.
By far, the most plentiful source of summer teaching jobs is at the hundreds of summer camps across the country. You might have been a camper as a kid, but going back as an adult can be a whole new experience. Think of it as a nature retreat with the added bonus of a paycheck, free room and board, and no household chores for two months! At first, camp salaries may not seem that great, but remember that you’ll have very few expenses during your stay. Most camps also offer bonuses to those who take on extra responsibilities, such as directing camp productions or supervising group outings. If you have children, they may be allowed to join you for a fraction of the regular cost. You might even consider renting out your home while you’re away and adding that cash to your summer earnings.
Gigs for Greenbacks
Perhaps you have a hobby or passion that you can parlay into extra summer income? You could opt to recharge your batteries by spending your summer working in a completely different field. A group of high school teachers at John Jay High School in New York City listed an assortment of summer jobs they have held, including scuba instructor, lifeguard, firefighter, landscaper, baseball coach, computer teacher, foreign language instructor, travel agent and wilderness camp leader. In some cases, these summer flings turned into profitable side businesses for a few enterprising teachers.
If you’re looking for short-term employment with minimum commitment, consider contacting a temp agency. As a temp, your hours may be flexible and you’ll gain office experience along the way. Hotels, restaurants and retail stores are also busy in the summer months and often find themselves short-staffed. Working in a local boutique gave Margaret Ward, a K–3 teacher in Boston who also owns a dance studio, just enough retail experience to add a dancewear annex to her school.
If you’re looking to really break away, think about working abroad for the summer. American teachers are in high demand for jobs as camp directors and instructors, tour guides, program coordinators and English teachers in countries around the globe.
Learning for Loot
Summer seminars, institutes and fellowships are available to K–12 educators through a number of government and private sources. Generally, teachers who participate in these programs receive stipends of up to $5,000 to cover their time, tuition, travel and housing costs. The National Endowment for the Humanities offers dozens of institutes through July and August on the following topics and more: Shakespeare, American Literature and Pluralism, Teaching Jazz as American Culture, Poetry, World War II, Don Quixote, Mozart’s Worlds and Landmarks of American History.
The National Endowment for the Arts, the National Geographic Society and many foundations also sponsor similar paid seminars for teachers. You may find summer study grants in conjunction with your local school system, colleges or universities, or a nearby museum or library.
Hunting for Hook-Ups
If you want to land the summer job of your dreams, start your search early and don’t forget to network. Tell your friends, colleagues, students and parents to keep you posted about anything that might sound interesting. In the meantime, do your own research and update your resumé, contacts and business cards. You have nothing to lose, except for a few months’ time. Your teaching job will still be there when fall rolls around and hopefully you’ll return a little bit richer, in more ways than one! DT
Lorelei Coutts is a public school dance teacher in New York City.
Like most K-12 dance teachers, your days are full of responsibilities, but what if you could take a break from it all, just for a while? A sabbatical may be just the thing for you!
Next to summer vacation, a sabbatical is one of the greatest perks that teachers in the public school system receive. Depending on your situation, you may be allowed anywhere from six months to a year off from your regular job to explore, study, travel and recharge your batteries. Your leave can be as ambitious or as relaxed as you choose, so long as it is professionally enriching. In any case, you’ll need to prepare personally, professionally and financially.
Taking a sabbatical is a once-in-a-career opportunity, so do a little soul-searching and ask yourself, “What do I really want to do with my time off from teaching?” You may want to explore an interest or gain new job-related skills, such as researching German folk dances or brushing up on your tap technique. You may also take steps to transition to another career, pursue an advanced degree or certification or fulfill a dream of seeing the world or volunteering. Do you have a yen for travel? Investigate a dance program offered in a different part of the world. The possibilities are endless.
Maybe there’s a particular style or form of teaching you’ve always wanted to specialize in, but couldn’t find the time. If so, continuing education programs could be right for you. For example, the National Dance Institute’s teacher training programs in New York and New Mexico offer college credits through partner universities, as does the Lincoln Center Institute. You may want to specialize in the Cecchetti method, Graham technique or other approaches offered by teacher programs across the country. If an advanced degree is your goal, check out the dance departments of the colleges in your area. (Turn to the 2005 Continuing Education Guide on page 111 to see the range of options available.)
The Nitty Gritty
How do you make your sabbatical dream into a reality? Think of your project as a two-year process. You’ll need a year to research, organize, write applications, meet deadlines, register for courses, make travel arrangements and so on. Then, of course, there is the sabbatical itself, as well as additional time afterward spent documenting, recording, writing, publishing or sharing your experience in some way.
Before embarking on this journey, consult a reliable source. Rules and regulations change from year to year, so don’t depend on your colleagues for information. You’ll need to talk to your union leader, contract representative, human resources department and school board to get answers to the following questions:
-Are you really eligible? How many years of full-time service are required before you can take a sabbatical? Must they be consecutive? Make sure that your teaching license, tenure, certification and teaching status are all in order before you make any final plans. There may also be a cap on the number of sabbaticals allowed per year in your school or region. For example, in New York City only five percent of a school’s staff may be on leave in any given year.
-Is seniority a factor in granting sabbaticals? If so, where do you stand?
-What kind of sabbaticals does your school allow? Some districts are extremely flexible, while others are very specific about what you can and can’t do while on sabbatical.
-Are you required to complete a certain number of college credits? Can you pursue an independent research project or travel sabbatical? Keep in mind that this time off is designed to make you more valuable to your school, so the review board will be looking for some return on their investment.
-Do you need to write a formal proposal or letter of intent for your sabbatical? You may need to provide letters of acceptance; course outlines or transcripts from institutions where you plan to study; letters from people or organizations you plan to work with; and detailed itineraries. Some courses must be approved in writing before you begin your leave, so plan ahead.
-What is the application procedure? When are the applications due and to whom? What supporting documents should be included? (See “6 Tips for Writing a Successful Sabbatical Application” on page 92.)
-Do you get paid while on leave? Usually the answer is yes, but the amount varies. Find out what percentage of your annual salary you’ll be receiving and when. (Some schools factor the summer months into the equation.) In most cases, you might receive anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of your salary—or for the lucky few, 100 percent. Keep in mind that while on sabbatical, you’ll have tuition and perhaps travel costs, but your taxes and day-to-day expenses may be reduced, because you won’t be spending as much money on classroom materials and your reduced income might put you in a lower tax bracket.
-Do your benefits (medical, dental, union, etc.) continue during your absence? Make sure you will have adequate medical coverage, especially if you’re planning to travel out of the country. Take care of routine exams or required immunizations well in advance.
n What happens to your retirement contributions, pension plans and service credits while on leave?
-How will your position be filled? Will the school district hire a substitute teacher or are you expected to find a replacement? Will you be responsible for providing your replacement with training, curriculum guides, lesson plans, materials, etc.?
-What happens when you return? Are you entitled to the same position? Will your seniority and retention rights remain unchanged?
-Are you obligated to teach for a certain number of years afterward? (In most cases the answer is yes, or you must pay back a portion of your sabbatical salary.)
-What is expected in terms of publishing or sharing your newly found information?
-Must you provide workshops or staff development based on what you’ve learned?
-How does your principal feel about your leave? The final stamp of approval may be in his or her hands.
If a sabbatical sounds promising, but financially impossible—get creative. There are hundreds of grants, fellowships, endowments, awards, scholarships and internships that might fit (and pay) the bill. Type “teacher grants” into a search engine. You’ll be amazed by what’s out there, from government sources to private foundations.
If you’re thinking of a project away from home, consider a “house swap.” Many teachers reach “sabbatical age” when their own children are out of the house, so consider renting out a room or taking on a roommate. If you’re interested in a college or university, inexpensive housing options or an affordable study abroad program may be available.
A sabbatical is all about time—time to learn, grow, reflect, renew and recharge. Step off the teaching treadmill and focus on yourself, as a professional and as a person. However you choose to spend your sabbatical is completely up to you, but at least for a while, time will be on your side.
Lorelei Coutts is a public school dance teacher in New York City.