My plea to teachers? Don’t work this Christmas

For many, the holidays are simply an opportunity to work more flexibly. Stop, says Louise Lewis: this year we need a proper rest
21st December 2020, 11:00am
Louise Lewis


My plea to teachers? Don’t work this Christmas
A Woman, Wearing Thick Socks, Puts Her Feet Up By The Fire At Christmas

Three, two, one and…breathe. 

It's here. A break more eagerly awaited than any other. If you concentrate hard enough, you can see the Christmas special on the TV and smell the Boxing Day sandwiches. 

What a dream that all is, after this past year. A year of learning new skills at a rate of knots, transforming our curriculum to fit online teaching and learning, and expecting the unexpected every single day. 

Yet some people will have read the words above and snorted. Break? What break? Because, despite an unrelenting perception, the "holidays" do not always do what they say on the tin. 

Christmas holidays: a time for working from home?

For most, they are time for a more flexible working pattern: working from home and catching up on everything that they couldn't squeeze into the previous term. But it is far from a "break" - even if a change is as good as a rest. 

This isn't always down to personal choice. Sometimes things are thrown at us. I distinctly remember the beginning of one Christmas holiday. We downed tools at 12pm. Students waved goodbye and staff headed to the pub for a well-earned soft drink

12.55pm, email pings: "Wishing you all a Merry Christmas. Take care."

12.58pm, email pings again: "As part of our ongoing QA, there will be a whole-school book scrutiny during the first week of term."

Cue Christmas spent checking books, ensuring they were full of "what went well" and "even better if", and red pen everywhere

Returning in January filled with fatigue and resentment, I had a box ticked to say I had followed policy. And that was it. Really worth the ruined holidays, right? 

Put your pens down and stop

So, this year, I implore you: stop! Put the marking pens down, disconnect the laptop and leave your planner at school. You need a break. 

No, stop the whataboutery… What about my mocks? What about the literacy books? What about those curriculum changes? What about that fabulous resource I need to make and laminate? STOP IT, NOW!

All of this can wait. The world will not stop turning if you do not do it. Your students will not think any less of you, and their learning will not come to a crashing halt. But you might. Don't do it to yourself. 

Picture this. It's the first week back in January. It's inevitably cold and a bit dark, and Christmas Day is a distant memory. This is where the sliding-doors multiple realities of your Christmas holiday come in to play.

Version one: you've worked relentlessly. You've caught up with those to-do list stragglers and those books have a variety of colourful ticks throughout. You're pretty pleased with yourself. However, you didn't make that socially distanced catch up with your best friend. It was a shame you missed that viewing of your favourite pantomime with your family. It won't matter, you can catch up with your sister for an online coffee any time. Can't you? It's worth it, after all. You laminated that resource that you will use for years

You walk through those gates on the first day of term, slightly more sprightly than when you left, dragging the trolley of accomplishments behind you. Flicking on the kettle, you wonder why everyone asks if you are OK. You glance in the mirror. Fair point: you do look a bit tired. 

Version two: you took stock at the end of term. You listened to your body, your friends, family (and me) and decided that this holiday was going to be exactly that: a break for you

Strolling in on the first day of the new term, you have a spring your step and a smile on your face. You are ready for anything. 

This winter holiday is a time to rest, relax and recuperate. And oh, my, do you need that this year. Your family, friends and loved ones need you around. You need to be around them - virtually, physically or whatever that looks like to you.

Your presence is the gift that is priceless. So spread that around like glitter (in a socially responsible way, of course).

Louise Lewis is a research lead and deputy head of science in a Yorkshire secondary school. She tweets @MissLLewis 

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