Why there's no such thing as a wasted half-term

You might start the half-term with big plans but there's no shame in using it to totally unwind, says Niall Statham

Niall Statham

Teacher wellbeing: Why there is no such thing as a wasted half-term holiday

As I pack up my car on the last day of the half-term, I make a familiar promise to myself that this time, it’s going to be different.

Yes, admittedly I might have made similar promises to myself over the past few years (who’s counting) but this half-term, I really mean it.

This will be the most productive half-term holiday ever. Many great things will be accomplished, and to demonstrate just how serious I am, I blast Proud by Heather Small at considerable volume.

Half-term holiday: Day 1

After accidentally sleeping through my 6am alarm, I drag myself out of bed at a time that’s somewhere between brunch and lunch. Deftly sidestepping the pile of gym kit laid out the night before, I take refuge on the couch.

Somewhere during the second coffee I make a self-compromise that I’ll make the kale smoothie tomorrow instead. Besides, I don’t have my active-wear on, which seems to be a prerequisite in all the instructional smoothie-making videos.

My attempts to initiate the half-term plan are then thwarted by the second half of Top Gun, which happens to be on. Worrying that my ego is writing cheques my body can’t cash, I decide it’s entirely reasonable to give myself a pass for the day. Besides, there’s still the rest of the week to get things done.

Day 2

As I trip over my trainers, silently cursing whoever left them there, I stare in disbelief at the time. Although, I shouldn’t really be surprised. Faced with the sheer novelty of staying up late (it’s not a school night), I opted for a Netflix binge. In what can only be described as a remarkable feat of endurance, I made it through 10 episodes of Cobra Kai and, in the euphoria, ordered myself a themed T-shirt. With the best part of the day behind me, it seems silly to start anything meaningful today.

Day 3

Although I technically woke up early today, the morning was sabotaged by a series of hilarious memes and an online quiz. Safe in the knowledge that I would be in Hufflepuff should I ever go to Hogwarts, it’s time to begin the exercise regime.  

The demands of the term have somewhat (fully) curtailed my training plans. However, that doesn’t stop me trying to recreate my personal best time from eight years ago. I cling on to the speed for a commendable three minutes, then settle for a pace more suited to my "tough few months" physique.

Skipping past Heather Small and Kenny Loggins, I opt for the Rocky soundtrack, which seems more fitting for the scale of the challenge.

Such was the intensity of the exercise; the rest of the day seems to pass without event. A trip to the shops that results in a family-size lasagne being singlehandedly demolished is all I can lay claim to for the rest of day 3.

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Day 4

The fourth day always starts with a spell in mourning for the previous three. For a while, it feels like the holiday is essentially over. Although it might seem like I’ve done nothing, maybe that’s something.

After throwing out some expired kale, I flirt with the idea of opening my laptop to either catch up or get ahead (I’m never quite sure which). Instead, I come to my senses and get out for some fresh air.

Although I’m aching from yesterday’s Herculean efforts, I feel like I’m leaving the stresses of the term behind me with each step.

With time on my hands, I enjoy the little things like reading a book and cooking a meal from scratch. They might not be big list items, but they’re a welcome opportunity to reconnect with things I love doing. It’s all too easy to forgo these treasured things when life gets busy.

Day 5

With the half-term behind me, I face up to the reality that I really need to work to earn a living. The contingency plan of winning the lottery (despite never playing it) has somehow failed again. However, I still count it as a holiday well spent. I needed to rest, and that’s exactly what I did.

I take a minute to remind myself that rather than setting lofty plans to achieve all my goals in a single week, it makes a lot more sense to achieve a better balance over the next six.

There’s no sense in heaping unreasonable expectations on to the holidays.

I’ve reached a stage in my career where I am now extremely comfortable admitting that at times I find the term exhausting and need the holidays to recover. I’m not ashamed to admit it, no other members of school staff should either.

So if you spent the week recovering, doing not very much at all, then know that many others did, too – including myself. And I loved every minute of it.

Niall Statham is head of physical education at Hartland International School in Dubai

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