I am a professional pianist, but like most musicians, only a certain percentage of my income comes from concertizing. Much of my work also involves teaching in some capacity: I teach several music courses at a University, and I hold a faculty position at a Performing Arts School teaching talented young pianists of varying ages and levels of development. My sister is an elementary school teacher, as are some old acquaintances from high school and college. One thing I've often heard them repeat is how deceptively long the hours they work are; that the school day itself is but a fraction of the time they put into their jobs every day. They are also quick to remind the rest of us that no, there is no such thing as "summers off" for them, as they are still working in other capacities during those months to further their careers and abilities. Until the past few years, I always believed this. However, certain observations are trying to change my mind. As part of my faculty job at the aforementioned Arts School, I make weekly trips to various elementary and middle schools in the area and around the state. I go there essentially to provide "after-school enrichment" programs to kids who, most often, have parents that are still at work and cannot be at home with them immediately after the school day. I teach piano lessons, give small concerts, play musical games, etc, with the kids. I enjoy it immensely. I have noticed however, that not once have I ever observed teachers staying in the building for more than an hour after the school day ends. Never. I pass many of them walking out as I walk in (which is mere minutes after the dismissal bell). I generally provide my services until 5:45 or 6 pm (3 hours after school gets out), and when I leave, there is never a single teacher or administrator left in the building. Indeed, the only living souls to be found on the premises by that time are myself, the kids I've been teaching, custodial staff, and the "after-care providers" (who are not themselves teachers at the school). The near-empty parking lot confirms that they aren't hiding in a tucked away conference room somewhere-they've left, meaning that their day at the office lasted from 8ish am (if they arrived somewhat early) until 3pm. Now, of course it's possible that every teacher at every school I've worked at simply brings mountains of work home with them in the evenings, but somehow that seems doubtful. Now, about summers: My sister used to work summers, pursuing her graduate degree and occasionally working summer programs. However, she hasn't done this for years. Of the other elementary school teachers I know, very few maintain any sort of professional summer commitments, and seldom do those last all three months. For that matter, I haven't known any teachers to truly work very much over the 3-week winter breaks, spring breaks, etc. It made me think back to my own elementary and high school education. I went to public schools, though "good" ones in a decent town, etc. Still, I took many classes with teachers who admitted that they themselves had only taught themselves the material from our textbook that previous summer. I took classes with teachers who spoke openly of their plans (in conversation with students who were expressing the same) to "do absolutely nothing" with their summer vacations. I had at least one teacher lecture us about how she'd rather be home playing with her own kids than being in that classroom with us. So, it completely sounds like I'm teacher-bashing, which I don't intend to be, and I've no doubt I will receive replies here from elementary educators or their spouses correcting my own anecdotal evidence with their own (which is fair). Let me be clear here: I think teaching young children is an incredibly noble profession. I believe that education is one of the most, if not the most, important investments we can make as a nation. I feel that we should be paying our teachers well, providing incentives for some of the best and brightest to pursue the field of education as a profession. I just sometimes feel as though, based on my observations, along with our continually declining standing in the world elementary education-wise, that we've goofed this up somewhere along the way. To be frank, I don't feel that our best and brightest are teaching. With (of course) many, many exceptions, I feel that many of our teachers are not thrilled about their jobs, and it shows. Am I wrong? All thoughts welcome.