Did you manage to get a rest this half term?

Without the usual excitements of the autumn or much of a rest, it will be a slog to Christmas, writes Kirsty Walker
1st November 2020, 9:00am

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Did you manage to get a rest this half term?

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/did-you-manage-get-rest-half-term
Half Term Is Over & Christmas Will Be Here Before We Know It, Writes Kirsty Walker

After what I lovingly call the Term of Death, there is usually a sweet payoff in the form of October half term, Halloween, and then Bonfire Night, my favourite time of the year.

The students have settled in, colleagues have stopped randomly bursting into tears, and then it's a downhill run to Christmas when you have two weeks off to either put back on all the weight you lost because of stress, or increase the weight you have put on from stress eating. Either way, it's a fun ride.

The first term back in FE usually starts in about mid-August with the madness of enrolment, which only ends because the students arrive back in the first week in September.

It's then six solid weeks of name learning, setting out your behaviour expectations, seeing said expectations destroyed and going on a disciplinary spree, and realising that you had temporarily lost your mind when you planned the first six weeks work and thought that you'd be well up for scavenger hunts and crafting activities when all you really want to do is put YouTube on and crawl under your desk for a nap.


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The half-term break comes just as you're about to pack in teaching forever, and for my team in the bustling Progress Hub, it's usually marked by a cathartic Friday afternoon trip to the pub. However, in tier 3 you can only go to the pub with your own household or support bubble, so that's out. Ironically, after spending eight hours a day with the same group of people, going to a pub with them is considered a death wish. 

I usually have a short trip away planned in half term, just a couple of nights with my own company in some random English town. I would now be viewed with great suspicion travelling into a "safe zone" while possibly carrying the plague. So staycation it is, but even that has its limits. Having a takeaway and watching Netflix alone is no longer the novelty it once was - I spent the last seven months doing just that.

A muted response to half term

The students are definitely feeling it, too. As an arts college, the last week before Halloween usually sees a good few costumes and some highly intricate face paint. They all look out for the plastic pumpkin filled with treats on my desk and seem to visit quite often for "a chat" when it's accompanied by a mini Mars bar.

There is usually an atmosphere of jubilation when I announce that half term is coming up, but this year there was a muted response - the students want to be in college and around their mates, and because we've been on a 50/50 timetable they've been off more than they've been in.

The first week back after half term is now a progress week where the maths and English resits take place in the individual centres but, otherwise, students are working from home. We realised that with an unusually high number of students resitting, and with them having to be two metres apart, we would need to hire an aircraft hanger or a small stately home to accommodate them all, so it's all hands on deck for invigilation in classrooms.

So the usual excitements of this time of the year are not to be: no trick or treating, no gathering in large numbers for fireworks. But it will be Christmas before we know it. A locked-down, socially distant Christmas. I might just put on YouTube and get back under the desk.

Kirsty Walker teaches at a college in the North West of England

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