'Don't waste the summer worrying about going back'

Not every teacher has a long summer break, writes Tom Starkey. So forget your classroom worries and embrace the holidays

school holidays_editorial

I’m a redhead of Irish decent, therefore the current heatwave means that there’s every chance of me spontaneously combusting at any given moment. This chance rises exponentially if I’m sat in the office, where, due to an incredible yet localised fluke of physics, any attempt to cool the room through traditional means, such as electric fans or the opening of windows, results in an actual increase in temperature and I get a sweat on like it’s GCSE results day.

So (to the visible delight of my sweat-averse co-workers) I’ve kissed college goodbye, used up a couple of my precious holiday days and foolhardily headed to the great British seaside with my family to get away from it all. I’ve got my factor 50 and given instructions to my two boys to shield me with parasols at all times, lest I turn into a smoking pile of ash on the promenade. So I should be OK.

Holidays 'a bit of a struggle'

But even without the imminent prospect of fiery destruction, holidays are often a little bit of a struggle for me. Working in FE, we don’t get the long breaks that other sectors experience – there’s an extremely quick turnaround of students finishing the academic year and the new ones turning up for enrolment. Some courses are roll-on/roll-off and there are others where there’s no annual break at all. For me, this basically means that the holidays are a precious commodity that need to be packed absolutely chock-full of holiday goodness.

This, ironically, leads to anxiety that I’m not filling the holidays chock-full of holiday goodness due to the length of time it takes me to unwind from work. It’s a self-defeating cycle of worrying about the short length of your holiday which results in the shortening of the length of quality holiday. Unfortunately, I can’t just switch into holiday mode: work lingers in my brain, making it more like a gradual transition. With the holiday season so tight in FE, no one has time for that.

Fighting through the anxiety

So to make up for the shortfall, I fight through the anxiety and get as much done in the shortest time possible. I’m writing this in the local arcade whilst simultaneously slamming 2p pieces into a one of those flicker machines while stuffing blue candyfloss into my mouth while shouting at my two to get the parasols ready as in 15 minutes I’ll be swimming in the sea as I read that book I’ve been putting off in term time and eat fish and chips off my whiter-than-white midriff.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is, as difficult as it can be sometimes, try and make the holidays happy. They’re so fleeting – do your best not to sully them with worry about going back. Embrace the leisure in whatever form it takes for you. Grab your loved ones and run for the sun.

Unless you’re me. Then cover-up completely and run for a darkened room.

Tom Starkey teaches at a college in the North of England

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