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How teachers can hold on to the benefits of the holidays

It can be easy to spend the last few days of a holiday preoccupied with the thought of returning to work, writes Yvonne Williams

How to make the most of the holiday

It can be easy to spend the last few days of a holiday preoccupied with the thought of returning to work, writes Yvonne Williams

Christmas seems so very last year now the Auld Lang Synes have been sung. But there’s something rather touching about the fact that our high street still has Christmas trees with their lights switched on and the house round the corner is still lighting up the road with snowmen, reindeer and a Santa sleigh. I admire their resistance to the incursion of the real world.

This rather bleak January day and the prospect of sub-zero temperatures for the next few days make me very glad I don’t have to embark on the early morning commute yet. But as I'm unable to break my addiction to the Tes website, I’m in danger of getting back into school mode already. Sunday afternoons come round soon enough; and, as my husband is always telling me: “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” By which he means the anxiety and over-preparedness that has been known to infect the closing stages of most holidays. Ah, if only we could end our time off with a “time-off” mentality.

So as January is represented by the god Janus, with one face looking back and one looking forward, this seems as good a time as any to review my expenditure of time thus far and to ensure (through careful timetabling) that I am able to snatch the best from the time remaining.

Looking Back

Various members of the family participated in the ritual traffic jams to the shopping centre. We had cheerful conversations with checkout operators counting down to closing time in the hyperactivity of end of year purchasing. We have even found time to admire our son’s musical Christmas socks.

We may now have ticked off the present-buying and wrapping, the carol singing and the Christmas lunch but there are important skills which will stand us in good stead for later in the year. After all, there are 357 days to get through before the next Christmas Day.

There are however, a few ways to spread the cheer in these last precious days of freedom, and ward off the January blues:

Enjoy the daylight

There are very few of us who get up in the light and come home in the light. Even though the shortest days of the year are incorporated into this holiday there is still some sunshine to be had. In the south, it looks as if there may be some sun on 4 January and it may not rain in the next few days.

Go swimming

For a truly invigorating experience, the Boxing Day and/or New Year swims in most parts of the country were unbeatable. I felt refreshed just watching them. It’s difficult to re-create these occasions, but a quick dip in the local swimming pool or a paddle in the water (wellies on of course) might safely reproduce something of the sensation.

Binge-watch box sets

Sit and watch the programmes you've been putting off – the endless homework and reports always get in the way – especially if they are due to be dropped from the schedule. I’m working my way through a fantastic radio series, a nice, cheery dystopian thriller called Chimera, at the moment. The intense all-compassing teaching life leaves us so little time to listen to plays. Car journeys are great for enjoying escapism into these stories, but once term starts it’s the internal angst-ridden narrative that gets the most airtime.


Read the books you have put on hold for fourteen weeks. As Christmas is bound to have added more tomes to the Leaning Tower of Pisa in your lounge, this is vital space-creation for the family. 

Have conversations with loved ones

Have conversations with family members who still live at home. There may be developments you had missed out on in the last week or so of term when school commitments had taken you out of the house almost constantly. And keep these conversations going even when term is in full swing.

Catch-up with friends

Get back in touch with friends who have sent you Christmas cards with a page of catch-up news. Find ways of sustaining the contact throughout the year.

Go shopping

Visit the sales online if you are as parking-phobic as I am, or in the high street if you still enjoy the sociable interaction with other shoppers. Sadly with more sales taking place in the virtual world, there are fewer opportunities for the keen urban campers to queue for the best sales items. The initial furore may be over, but the last moments of the sale can yield some unanticipated gems.

Get some sleep

Aim to lengthen your sleep from five hours to eight hours by the time the holiday ends. There is still time for that lie-in.

Evaluate on the first day back

How will you know if you have been successful? On the first day of term, you will struggle to get back into the working routine; you will be able to converse with your colleagues about the Christmas watch-list, your sales bargains and family events; and the holiday, though already a fading memory, will have been well-spent.

Yvonne Williams is a head of English and drama in the south of England – and still resolutely on holiday

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