As educators crawled towards the summer holidays – which started a few weeks ago in Scotland but are only just getting going in England – there was a general consensus that we are not just teacher tired, we are pandemic teacher tired.
As we looked forward to the prospect of being able to unwind, recharge and spend proper time with our families again, however, it was almost guaranteed that the annual irritation of "too many holidays" and "lazy teachers" comments will start coming in. And, just like Christmas, this seems to start earlier every year.
In 2021, these comments are likely to feel particularly gaslighting after the year of heightened stress that we have just been through. In January, one newspaper even asked why teacher bashing had become a "national sport".
So, how can we deal with these comments and enjoy our well-earned summer breaks? Here are five tips and strategies.
1. Use your restorative skills
It is often helpful to pretend you are dealing with a pupil in your class: be curious about why they felt the need to make such comments and use all your patience as you explain to them that teaching is a very intense job that leaves you very little time for your friends and family during term time – and gently explain how such comments make you feel.
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2. Reduce your exposure
If someone cannot be reasoned with and you feel unable to ignore them, do what you can to avoid the person. Nobody has a right to your time and energy, and sometimes the only way to deal with a very toxic person is to not deal with that person. You also have a right to mute, unfriend, unfollow or block anyone who is pushing your buttons via social media. Which leads to the next points…
I noticed this year that many trolls were heading to our various trade union pages to vent their frustrations with government Covid policies by baiting teachers. It is immediately obvious who is actually a teacher and who is just there to goad people. My best strategy for this is to block every single troll individually. If we all did this, then the trolls are just shouting into a void, leaving the teachers free to have adult discussions about the issues that matter to us.
4. Don’t read the comments
We all know that sometimes newspapers will write deliberately inflammatory articles about education and teachers to get clicks. Don’t feed it by giving them the click and, whatever you do, do not read the comments. Before you know it, you will drawn into a "beef" with an anonymous tweeter who has a handle loaded with a telltale array of random numbers, like @truthful386398566. You will not change their mind about teachers, but you will waste your precious time and get your stress levels up. And who needs that?
5. Find a safe space to vent
Sometimes we all need to vent, and there are many teacher-support groups online where you can do that safely with people who understand and probably feel the same way. We all need to let off steam sometimes.
Above all, do not lose sight of the fact that you have risen to the biggest challenge to face education in our lifetime. You quickly adapted to online teaching and were there to support your students through a tough time. You were there to pick up the pieces when school buildings reopened and prioritised the health and wellbeing of the children in your care. You pulled everything together (with little time) to allow a smooth transition for the next academic year.
All this, while dealing with your own stresses and worries that the pandemic has brought. You deserve this summer holiday more than ever. Now go and enjoy it.
Gemma Clark is a primary teacher and a master's student, based in Scotland. She tweets @Gemma_clark14