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Surviving Holidays

(Abridged version of ch 24 of my ‘Elephant in the Staffroom’ book)

According to the old joke, October is the month where the cricket fan discovers that his wife left him in August. Only when the season has ended does anything from normal life come to his attention. The grain of truth in this for teachers is that it is not unusual to get to the holiday and feel that reconnecting with life is a bit of a strain. A recent speech given by John Tomsett at a conference likened teaching to being in a submarine: you submerge for 7 weeks or so and then come up for air for a week.

Hence here are 5 tips for enjoying your holidays

  1. Plan your break: We are busy and it is very easy for a holiday to arrive and for us to find that we have no real plan about how we are going to use it.  It is important that in the last couple of weeks you arrange to see friends, book trips etc. Firstly this gives us something to look forward to. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it avoids us leaving school on Friday and thinking ‘what now?’  This lack of purpose or direction and the anxiety that goes with it is known as Existential Angst by philosophers.

  2. Do nothing whilst tired. Enjoy your rest on the Friday evening and possibly the Saturday. It’s YOUR time. You do not HAVE to do anything if you don’t want to. Incidentally never start DIY on the first day of a holiday. Been there, broke that! Listen to your emotional states.

  3. Decide when you’re working and stick to it. Most holidays I tend to work for a couple of days usually near the start of the break to get it out of the way but sometimes it’s towards the end. If I’ve planned to leave it till the end then I don’t tend to feel guilty because I’ve made a decision to do it then. The vague ‘I will do lots of work at some point’ is a recipe for recurring guilt; fix the boundaries of your work time. Also try to do work that you enjoy rather than admin or marking.

  4. Know when to stop: There’s always more we can do but decide how long you are going to spend on work and stick to it. You need to be fresh for the start of the next term.

  5. Invest in yourself and your significant others: During a busy term we can often neglect those around us, be too busy to pursue the things we’re interested in. This is your time now. Play with the children, read a book, go out for a meal. Invest in your relationships and stimulate your interests. You’ve worked hard, you deserve it

Finally. . .  don’t feel guilty!

The holidays are quite generous but they are not unreasonably so if you are working at least 50 hours a week for three quarters of the year. You will have done at least 1-2 extra unpaid weeks for every 6 that you work. It is not wrong to claim the time back.

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