One of the things that sets teaching apart as a profession (although I think cops, firefighters, EMTs, and various other professions would say something similar) is that it is a job which requires one's active and involved presence all the time. While it is true that I can request a substitute to cover my class when I'm sick, the likelihood of my students learning anything that day is slim to none, and the possibility of coming back to a classroom which is littered with graffiti and random pieces of paper quite high. One of the reasons that summer is so precious to teachers is that we can't take vacations during the year.
I remember when I was a kid that my dad, who is an electrical engineer, had to request vacations from work. I remember my mom and him discussing when I had projects he had to be there for and when he was traveling and how many days he thought he'd be able to take off when so that we could take a family vacation. And we did - we went to almost every continental state (I'm missing Oregon and Washington), camping, visiting family, and seeing a lot of amazing natural wonders and historical sites. It was wonderful and I always wanted to take my own kids on trips like that. I still don't have bio-leg-ical children, but I love giving my students opportunities to broaden their horizons.
But beyond those summer trips, this last year of my life has highlighted for me how important summer break is. Right now I'm sitting at my parents' house, talking with my mother about why and when we watching the news after having spent much of the afternoon at a rehab center where my grandmother is continuing to recover from a surgery. Having lost my Bubby earlier this year and needing to take days off of work to travel for the funeral, I have been thinking a lot about the problem of taking time off from work. It's a hard thing to realize that I can't just request days off. I get time off only on vacations unless I take sick days. I do get two personal business days, which I used near the beginning of the year because I was in a friend's wedding, and two bereavement days, which I used for Bubby's funeral, but once those are gone, I have to put everything else on hold until the summer.
Summer is when I get to not work Mon. - Fri. 7am - 7pm and Sat./Sun. afternoons for at least a couple hours a day. Summer is when I get to see my family. Summer is when I get time to be healthy and actually work out. Summer is when I get to read books and practice piano and restore my soul because you can't pour water from a dry well. Summer is a necessity for teachers. Either that or teachers should be granted sabbaticals.