Forget the to-do list: this summer, let yourself relax

Every year, Emma Turner has big plans for things she will achieve over the summer holidays. Every year, she fails. This year, she only has one goal: rest

Woman, relaxing in swimming pool

The end of the summer term can feel like that final sprint down The Mall on London Marathon day. But instead of a cheering crowd encouraging your every step and celebrating with an oversized medal and a foil blanket, it can feel like there’s only a lone stagger towards an oasis of rest.

Every year I have big plans for the summer holidays. Things I will do, books I will read, friends I will see, sleep I will accrue and day-to-day life-admin tasks that will finally be ticked off. 

However, every year, none of this seems to happen. More recently, I attribute this to having three small children whose needs and associated household chores keep me busy from dawn 'til dusk. But, even pre-children, it appeared that my attempts to tick things off my to-do list were utterly elusive and on occasions, futile.

Madness and high emotion

The summer holiday tick list is the teaching equivalent of new year’s resolutions. It is made every year in a moment of madness and high emotion, but then, in the cold light of day, weighs heavy around the neck. 

For some, the summer dreams do materialise: trips to far-flung places occur, and love affairs with hobbies are rekindled. For many, however, it’s a case of Grease’s Danny and Sandy, lamenting their summer dreams, ripped at the seams. Once the exhaustion troll has been wrestled into submission, the car finally MOT'd, the dentist visited, the classroom prepped and that cupboard under the stairs finally tackled, there doesn’t actually seem to be that much time to stick to those well-intentioned plans. 

There is also the edu-FOMO guilt monkey, who can sit on your shoulder, cackling gleefully as others in various sunny destinations post shots of their hotdog legs upon which sits the latest edu-bestseller. This monkey is the same one who can give your ear a tweak as others post pictures of their pristine newly arranged classrooms or their completed planning documents. 

Mo Farah wipe-out

Yet it is so important that we as educators connect, rest and reset. I ask my NQT and early-career cohorts repeatedly what would happen to Mo Farah if he ran marathons for 12 hours every day? Would it make him a better marathon runner? No? Why? Because he would be exhausted. 

It’s the same with teaching. Excessive working hours, either in the pursuit of perfection or as a result of toxic school expectations, can mean that day-to-day life is squeezed out and concentrated into the holidays. And this, in turn, means that teachers are ultimately less effective. It is life that ignites us and reminds us of our passions, our joys and our humour. And it this aspect of us that makes us sparkle, when we bring it to the classroom. 

We need to be well-rested and we need to be energised in order to illuminate our classrooms. It doesn’t matter about the Rosenshine if there hasn't been a decent rise and shine.

Human first

Teachers are often referred to by some as superheroes for aspects of the life-changing work they do. But, actually, teachers are humans first. Humans need rest, and humans need connections with their loves and their lives in order to function effectively. 

And that is why I’ll be doing a lot of what I love this summer. I’ll be reading the books I’ve been setting aside to devour; I’ll be spending time with my children, husband and family. I’ll also delving into edu-projects that I find exciting and which fill me with hope for the profession. 

But shall I tell you what I won’t be doing? Making a list of what I need to do. Next term needs me to be sharp, ready and willing to run the next edu-marathon. 

So here’s to summer holidays. May they equip you with the vim and vigour of a Duracell bunny.

Emma Turner is the research and CPD lead for Discovery Schools Trust, Leicestershire

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