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'Five tips for making it through the summer term'

Stephen Petty, head of humanities at Lord Williams's School in Thame, Oxfordshire, writes:

Every school term now ends with pallid colleagues wearily patting one another on the back, all agreeing that the session in question was “particularly gruelling”. This ritual has been going on for some years now. Perhaps some native survival instinct makes us conveniently forget that we now feel just as drained and dog-tired at the end of every term.

School, in other words, seems “particularly gruelling” all the year round nowadays and there is absolutely no reason to suppose that the remaining weeks – with their unique blend of revision, exams, excursions, time-tabling and new A-level course writing – are going to feel any different.

However, I humbly suggest five ways that may make the pressure of what remains of our school year feel more manageable:

1. Fall in love

This is perhaps an unusual first piece of advice, but let’s be honest here. The most obvious go-to option for a teacher hoping to ride the stresses and strains of the summer term is a fresh, full-fat romance (ideally with a colleague, as that will obviously double the benefit). Even the toughest of days seems an irrelevance when your head is swimming with sweet thoughts. No question about it, a burgeoning love affair is easily the most effective way of preventing all the worries and responsibilities of school from overtaking term-time life. So if this is still a possible option for you, think of a suitable target and go for it.

2. An alternative date


Teachers with several exam classes are about to face a frantic last few weeks featuring final lessons with said groups, countless after-school and working-lunch revision sessions, and frequent and sometimes overwhelming waves of marking. If this includes you, then remind yourself of the date of the final exam in your subject and keep remembering that, after that time, there will be no more revision sessions, no more piles of past papers to mark. Arrange some kind of mini-celebration that evening. It may not be the end, but for some it will mark the beginning of the end.

3. Use the extra daylight

Although my own workload is about to become more intense than ever, I find that an active use of the lengthening daylight makes everything feel a lot less burdensome. Try occasionally to get up at 5.30 and to go for a morning walk, jog or cycle ride. You feel wonderful at school afterwards. Everything seems so much easier to handle. Warning: you may, however, feel a little drowsy at after-school meetings. 

4. Keep reading that book

We may not rip through the chapters quite as rapidly as we did in the spring holiday – and the idea of staring at some words rather than staring at trash TV might be a hard sell – but it’s really important that we all keep reading a few pages every day. Teachers definitely benefit from some literary stimulation or from a little escapism, given the timetable routine of school - and yet, too often, books are the first casualty of a new term.

5. Book them now

I could be talking about the week in the sun once the madness is over, but, similarly, we should all reserve, right here and now, particular dates during the term for eating out, or for going to see that forthcoming play, comedy act, sports match or whatever. If we leave it too long, we simply allow school to dominate and forget to arrange such things before it’s too late. We should obviously show a full commitment to our lovely, deserving students at this vital stage, but we should not let this take over our minds and lives completely.

I wholeheartedly urge my colleagues to adopt one or all of these measures. Without such strategies, the summer term can risk running out of control. With them, we can look forward to making hay if the sun shines.

Until results day, of course.

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