Holidays? Teachers are always on holiday!
If you haven’t had this conversation with a friend or family member then I am guessing you aren’t a teacher. I lost count of how many times people told me that I was “always on holiday”. What few people realise is that there is a mammoth amount of work to do during the school holidays. Lessons don’t plan themselves, classrooms don’t move themselves and set themselves up for the new year. It can take a day just to label all the new books for the new school year, can’t it?
If anything the challenge for most teachers is remembering to actually take a break. I remember when I was a newly qualified teacher I went to germany and the Czech Republic in the summer holidays. I spent the whole holiday taking photos of tessellating tiles on buildings, buying Pied Piper resources and taking photos of statues etc in Hamelin and buying cfairy tales in different languages to show my class.
This is not a holiday.
This is a resource gathering expedition.
Hands up if you have done the same thing?
I know you have, because if you are reading this you work in a school!
We have all spent Christmas day asking family members not to screw up their Quality Street wrappers so we can put them in the art corner, or saving Toblerone boxes for next time we do 3D shapes. It took me almost 10 years after I stopped teaching to stop doing these things!
We spend the whole of our holidays doing things which are, directly or indirectly, school related.
Now we have identified the issue, what can we do to sort it out?
Shift your priorities
When the holidays start make your personal life your priority. Whether it is spending time with your family and friends, catching up on jobs around the house or days out. Those are top of your to do list for the next few weeks.
Whether it is a day out to a local beauty spot or just sitting in the garden with a cuppa and a good book, spending time in nature is calming and you will feel more relaxed just by being in the fresh air. Even if it is tackling a big garden project, you will feel tired but rejuvenated from the physical exercise and the fresh air. Whatever the weather, getting outside has physical benefits for your physical and mental health. We spend so much time indors during term time so even if it is taking some planning onto the patio or to the local park, get outside as much as you can.
Get your school work done as soon as you can
I know that some schools won’t let you in during the start of the holiday to set up, but I always used to try and get everything set up in my classroom and all my planning etc done during the first week, if at all possible. That way my brain could relax knowing everything was ready for going back. That way I could fully relax and enjoy the time off.
Make fun plans
If you have plans that make you smile during the holidays, whether it is days out, coffee with a friend or a visit to somewhere you have always wanted to go, having plans in place, preferably before the holidays start, ensures that you will have things to look forward to and you won’t drift through the holidays in a haze of Netflix and sleep. Making happy memories with loved ones will give you things to look back on and ensure you are making the most of your time off.
Do things you love
It’s easy to fill the school holidays with things that you feel you should be doing; sorting out the garden, decorating that room, giving everywhere a deep clean… It might give you great joy to get those jobs done, and if it does, great. If it doesn’t then maybe you can leave them? If you really feel that you have to get those jobs done, then try to balance them with things you love. So if you spend two days decorating the spare room, have two days away in a cottage somewhere, or spend two days sitting in your favourite place reading a book you have been wanting to read, whatever makes you happy.
Start good habits
Have you let your diet slip? Stopped exercising? Maybe you always wanted to get into a daily meditation practice? Whatever it is that you know you would benefit from introducing to your life, start the habit during the holidays and by the time you go back to school it will be a non-negotiable and you will find time to keep it up. I used to tell myself I didn’t have time for exercise. The reality was, I hate it! A few months ago I bought an exercise bike/cross trainer and put it in my office. Now I cycle for at least 15km every morning before I do anything else. I realised I can read while I cycle so it doesn’t feel like wasted time because I am reading for about half an hour a day too and I feel stronger and happier than ever before. What can you start doing that you will benefit from in the long term?
Learn to be more mindful
Mindfulness is a great way to learn to control your mind. Simple daily strategies like morning meditation or journalling can help you to quiet your mind and relax. Why not find a technique that you enjoy and try it every day of the holidays. By the time the holidays are over you will probably keep it up and stay calm and happy all year long. Another of my favourites is yoga. It’s such a lovely way to start the day. It strengthens your body but calms you mind at the same time. I thoroughly recommend Yoga with Adrienne if you are looking for an online option to test the water. She has videos for every condition, every competence level and always gives simplified versions for beginners or people who are less flexible.
The most important thing of all though…
…is giving yourself permission to switch off. As teachers we are so used to being busy all the time, we find it hard to stop and just rest. It is so important that you are able to rest you mind and body when you have chance. I appreciate that everyone’s personal circumstances are different. If you have young children it might be more challenging to find time to do some of these things, but spend real quality time with your children. Get some popcorn and have a film afternoon. If they are old enough and have the attention span have a film day. We used to have themed days. We watched Harry Potter films all day one summer, we made beds on the floor, ate jellybeans and chocolate coins and made coke floats and called it butter beer. The children loved it and I had a day of resting while we made amazing memories. If you can of course, you can find a new series on Netflix and give yourself permission to just sit and watch them all, even if it is just after the children have gone to bed.
Don’t feel guilty for taking time off. You have earned this time and your loved ones deserve time with the calm, happy you, not the tired and stressed version.