How do we recover from a term-long marathon?

Marathon runners need a recovery day for every mile run. Teachers have two weeks. Pass the chocolate, says Emily Gunton
24th December 2020, 9:00am
Emily Gunton


How do we recover from a term-long marathon?
Coronavirus & Schools: Teaching During The Covid Pandemic Is Like Running An Especially Tough Marathon, Says Emily Gunton

We actually made it to the finishing line. Many teachers had only survived the term because of the hope that they could share Christmas with friends and family

Now millions have had to scrap their plans, less than a week before Christmas, thanks to the newest addition to the tier system. I thought Tier 4 only existed when schools had their very own tier system. But now the school tiers have been scrapped by Gav, Boris has decided to nick Tier 4 and add it to his own, newly revamped system. 

Tiers or no tiers, I had decided that this year was going to be a low-key boxset kind of Christmas. All my food and Christmas shopping was done online, as I prepared to return to my teenage years and spend two weeks horizontal on my sofa. Quite simply, I have no energy for anything else.

Coronavirus: Running the most difficult marathon in the world

Passing the threshold of the last day of term was slightly like crossing the finishing line of the Inca Trail marathon. 

For those who are not familiar with the Inca Trail marathon, it is accepted as the most difficult marathon in the world. With inclines and declines of great extremes, the course is estimated to be as difficult as running nearly two tough marathons in a row. This sounds remarkably like autumn term, 2020

The problem with completing something as physically and emotionally challenging as the Inca Trail marathon - or autumn term, 2020 - is that you need suitable recovery time. For a normal marathon, it takes a day for every mile run. 

The problem is that the Christmas holiday isn't long enough for a full recovery. Apart from the fact that it has, without a doubt, been the toughest term of my teaching career, we must then factor in the regulation illness that tends to attack the teaching profession on the first day of the holiday. You know, the one that knocks you out for at least five days.

In preparation for the finishing line - otherwise known as the end of term - I had to ensure that my online shopping delivery contained a few firm favourites: Lemsip, Nurofen, paracetamol, Strepsils and something cold and fizzy accompanied by a box of Ferrero Rocher. 

I know parents often wonder what to buy teachers at Christmas, but really, it is quite simple: a truckload of cold and flu relief would be perfect, along with Ferrero Rocher and some Cadbury's Bournville chocolate.

Why Ferrero Rocher, you ask? Over the years, I have found that it is important to find a chocolate that nobody else under the age of 18 likes, to ensure that you don't have to share. I also like Cadbury's Bournville chocolate for the same reason. I can safely say that I won't be disturbed on the sofa while I'm tucking into chocolates that my children think existed in the Dark Ages.

24 hours in a school's own A&E

Yet, while I eat my body weight chocolate, joyful that I've removed the Outlook app from my phone and put an out-of-office reply on my email for the first time ever, I'll also be preparing myself for the term ahead. Gav, Matt and Boris clearly decided that an Inset day on 18 December would give us just that bit too much time to relax. So, instead, they decided to keep things fresh and give us something new to look forward to.

It appears that from January, many teachers are going to be working in a field hospital, set up in the school car park, with the help of volunteers and possibly even the army

I have decided that the best way to prepare is to start my holiday with a Netflix binge of 24 Hours in A&E.  I am hoping it should be good CPD for the new phase of my career, administering the new "lateral flow" Covid tests. 

My only hope is that these new tests are slightly friendlier than the PCR tests, which swab so far down the back of your throat they almost touch the inside of your stomach, and so far up your nose, it feels like it's checking to see whether your brain is still there. Surely the drama of administering all of this will inspire Netflix to commission 24 Hours in a Covid Car Park

With such turbulent times still ahead of us, it's hard to switch off. But switch off we really must. If we're going to cope with whatever next term brings, then this Christmas needs to be about rest, recuperation and the small things - like getting to the bottom of my laundry basket for the first time since 31 August.

Emily Gunton is director of music, head of co-curricular and outreach and school consultant teacher at Blackheath High School in south-east London

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