Everyone needs a break by half-term. You just have to learn how to manage your time to make sure you get it. Susan Young tells you how
Summer term - that time of year when tests, exams, marking and reports all seem to gang up on you. July, and the end of the school year, is too far away to think about. What you need is a break - or at least a couple of fun days out.
May half-term is fast approaching, but too many teachers work through it in an attempt to keep on top of their workload. Don't. It's important to get a rest in such a long and busy term, according to Claire Bradford, a life coach and former teacher.
"Half-term is a convenient time to catch up with work, but it's important to make sure that it's balanced with replenishing energy levels and looking after yourself.
"So many teachers, who are already tired from the first half of the summer term, continue to keep their noses to the grindstone during the holidays. By the end of term they are near to dropping point, and often end up having to take time off sick," says Claire.
But how do you get that essential break when you are drowning in work? The secret is in managing your time.
Start by going through everything you need to do, Claire advises. "It is 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, positively decide now that you won't do all of it and cut it right down."
Then prioritise your tasks, assign each one an estimated time, and then aim to reduce the list by one third.
The next step is to plan exactly when you'll do what. Some people will prefer doing two or three solid days, while others will prefer knowing mornings are for work and afternoons for fun. "Make these workplay boundaries sacred and you won't have the sense of your work "looming" over you while you're trying to relax," says Claire.
Now you know what free time you have, what will you do with it? Claire suggests using your free two or three days to visit somewhere you've always wanted to go, or a friend you haven't seen for ages. With a day or half a day, why not pack a picnic and go for a leisurely walk, or visit a tourist attraction in your own town.
Alternatively, Claire suggests trying something you have never done before, such as painting (visit www.activitysuperstore.com) or a pampering facial or massage.
"Relaxing, having fun and being good to yourself are not some guilty pleasures to be hidden while colleagues wear their worked-all-holiday expressions like a badge of honour," she says. In fact, a little input for you during half-term will help make you clearer-headed, energised, motivated and creative. In short, an altogether much more efficient and happier teacher."
10 DAYS OUT
1. Seen a well-dressed well recently? Half-term falls at the height of the ancient Derbyshire and Peak District well-dressing and flower festival season, when more than 60 towns and villages vie to create the most spectacular creations. http:sinfin.netwelldressingdates.html
2. Combine culture and the seaside with the final weekend of the Brighton Festival. This year there are street performances on the last Sunday and Monday in May, plus the Night Of The Dragon, "a pyro-musical extravaganza of acrobatics and daredevil fire stunts", plus a firework display. www.brightonfestival.org
3. Contemplate Antony Gormley's 100 naked figures dotted round Crosby beach before heading into Liverpool, European City of Culture. www.merseywaterfront.com. www.liverpool08.com
4. Catch a crab at Kimmeridge Bay in Dorset. The bay is perfect for rock pooling thanks to its double low tide. www.coastlink.orgkimmeridge
5. Award-winning Southwold Pier in Suffolk is home to Tim Hunkin's wacky hand-built machines. www.southwoldpier.co.uk
6. Get to Pace Bike Park at Dixon's Hollow in Dalby Forest, Yorkshire, which is every mountain-biker's dream. www.forestry.gov.ukdalbyforest
7. Go to the Eden project, where you can bask like one of the resident lizards in one of the biggest conservatories in the world. For half-term visitors there's the Sexy Green Car Show. Just don't expect to bump into Jeremy Clarkson. www.edenproject.com
8. Go ape in one of 17 aerial adventure playgrounds around the UK where you can spend hours making your way through the trees on high walkways, zip wires and much more. Advanced booking is essential. www.goape.co.uk
9. See how the other half lives. Hop on a boat for a Hollywood-style tour along the Thames. You'll see the riverside homes of the rich and famous, including Michael Parkinson and Rolf Harris. From pound;17.50 for teatime cruises. www.lastminute.com
10. Be afraid on Britain's best rollercoaster at Oakwood Theme Park in Pembrokeshire. Megafobia is made of wood, and it rattles. www.oakwoodthemepark.co.uk
What teachers on The TES staffroom are doing
Monday says: "I went to Corsica last May half-term and it was blissful. This May, possibly going to a friend's wedding in Athens."
Blah330 says: "It will be the end of our Sats and I am determined to have a holiday. I am going to Canada - fitting in three weeks' sightseeing in five days. I cannot wait."
Mortymoo says: "I am going to Wales for a friend's birthday, then I shall stay on for a few days holiday. I might go to Center Parcs, but it's pricey for that week."
Mfdl says: "Three days of cub camp, a day recovering and then, most probably, off on my mega trip to visit family in Norfolk, Hertfordshire and Derbyshire."