Half term tips for harried teachers!

Let me tell you about my most recent brush with the media – in this week’s Times Educational Supplement magazine, dated 25th April.  I was approached by Susan Young, a journalist for the TES, to contribute my thoughts towards a piece encouraging teachers to have a proper break and get away in the May half term.  Here’s what I wrote to her, much of which is reproduced in the magazine (p8, if you’re interested…):

“It’s half term and you can just make out the light of the summer at the end of a dark, 8-week tunnel. There are reports to be written, essays to be marked, schemes of work to plan and it’s easy to fill this meagre week with more work than you’d do if you were at school. But what about YOU? It isn’t for nothing that we are reminded on flights to attend to our own oxygen masks before helping others with theirs – it’s important to keep ourselves strong in order to be able to keep going and to do some active good. This is particularly true of teaching, a job which makes many demands from many different areas. Yet so many teachers, already tired from the first half of the summer term, continue to keep their noses against the grind stone during the holidays so that they are near to dropping point by the end of term, and often end up having to take time off sick.

Half term is a convenient time to catch up with work, yet it is important to make sure that it is balanced with replenishing energy levels and looking after yourself. An ideal way to do this would be to get away for some or all of the break. But how can you do this if you’re drowning in work? The secret is in managing the time that you do have available to you, in order to maximise work and play!

Take a good look at the list of work you need to do. It’s likely that all of it needs to be done, but does it absolutely, positively have to be done during half term? More to the point, how much of it will you realistically do? Rather than kicking yourself at the end of the week that you haven’t completed your list, decide positively now that you won’t do all of it and cut it right down. Prioritise tasks, assign each one an estimated time it will take you and aim to reduce your list by at least a third of the total time. Next, plan exactly when you’re going to do it (it’s safe to assume that the mood will not suddenly come upon you…) – would it work better for you to do two or three solid days, for example, or would you work better knowing that your mornings are for work and your afternoons for you? Make
these work/play boundaries sacred and you won’t have the sense of your work ‘looming’ over you whilst you’re trying to relax.

So now you know what time you have available, what would you like to do with it? If you have two or three days clear, how about booking a B&B somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, setting off early the first morning and returning late the following day? Visiting a friend you haven’t seen in ages? Or planning an extravagant shopping trip and take in a show in a nearby city? You could even whizz over to Paris for a whistle-stop tour by Eurostar. If you have a day or a half-day available, how about packing a picnic and going for a long walk by the sea/in some hills/along a river? Or visiting a tourist attraction in your own town that you’ve never been to? Maybe you could consider doing something you’ve never done before, like abseiling, falconry, watercolour painting etc (try www.activitysuperstore.com)? Or you could even book yourself in for a pampering facial or massage.

Remember that relaxing, having fun and being good to yourself is not some guilty pleasure to be hidden whilst colleagues wear their weatherbeaten, worked-all-holiday expressions like a badge of honour! In fact, a little input for YOU during half term will make you clearer-headed, energised, motivated and creative – in short, an altogether much more efficient and happier teacher!”

This will be the third time I’ve appeared in the TES, another (abridged) feature I helped with features on their website here: http://www.tes.co.uk/search/story/?story_id=2560964

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