Teachers, moonlighters, and summer

At Bastrop High School, a rural school here in Northeast Louisiana, I teach two classes of gifted high school English, two classes of honors English, and two classes of “regular” students. There’s only fourteen school days left this year. I know because one of my students made a countdown calendar on one of the chalkboards and has been counting down for us. I’m ready for the summer. This will be only the second summer I’ve managed to have “off” in my eleven years of teaching. All the other summers were either spent going to school fulltime or working odd jobs trying to make ends meet, or a combination of both. I cringe when I hear people talk of teachers having all that time off, and I have a conniption fit when I hear talk of year-round school.
First of all, at least here in Louisiana, teachers are nine month employees. That means we’re paid for nine months, and that salary is stretched out over twelve months. I’m not sure where Louisiana ranks now in teacher pay, I just know we’re close to the bottom. I know the money’s not enough to make a dignified living. This is why so many teachers have to moonlight. And many moonlight year-round. I do. I edit books, play in a Scot-Irish band, and try to sell the books I write. And some summers, I’ve done carpenter work, worked for Waste Management, worked in a funeral home, and a score of other odd jobs. (If you want some interesting writing ideas, make a list of all the jobs you’ve ever had.)
Regarding summer: In the face of tougher teacher standards, teachers need the summer to take university courses. Of course, I realize many go to school year-round. Some attend university classes at night, even if they have worked all day with the brain-numbing tasks related to teaching. Then they take care of their family and homes, get all the papers graded (trivia question: how long does it take to read and grade a class set of 25 essays?), and finish all the assignments for their college class. They return to school the next day, try to do a decent job teaching, and do their best to somehow manage to move all the rocks (busy work) that politicians and administrators mandate be moved. Pardon the rant. I’m tired today. Maybe that’s why I’m venting. But maybe I gave you something to think about as well.