Lazing around? It's the best thing a teacher can do

It's easy to envy organised alpha teachers but, says Jo Brighouse, great leaps in knowledge can happen when we're idle

Warm socks, book and cup of tea

The new teaching year has begun and, across the country, teachers are rejoining the treadmill at breakneck speed. 

Headteachers are dispensing rotas and motivational speeches, NQTs are emitting enough nervous energy to power the National Grid, and veterans are forcing their knowledge of place value to the front of their minds, as the entire profession collectively shifts gear from sunbed to seating chart.

September is the month when I become most jealous of the alpha teacher – that superior breed whose desk drawers are filled with colour-coordinated Post-it notes, and who say things like: “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but if I’d been there it would have been.”

These are the same people who wash their own children’s PE kits on the day they arrive home, and have their lesson plans and school trips until January locked down by the end of July. 

Still in the boot

It goes without saying that I am not one of these people (although I am remarkably good at convincing myself otherwise).

On the last day of the summer term, I will happily load armfuls of resources into my car, along with lists of all the planning and research I will do in the endless weeks of freedom that lie ahead of me. I even find myself looking forward to the lovely productive days I will have, as I busily tick everything off my list. 

Of course, the reality is that you never learn. The holiday vanishes in a blur, and before you know it, it’s 48 hours before the start of term, the bags are still in the boot (with a light coating of sand), I’ve forgotten my laptop login and have only the haziest recollection of which topics I agreed to teach this term. 

Because, as the holidays prove, my natural condition is one of laziness. I take to it like a duck to water. Give me a free day and I’m quite capable of filling it with a crime novel, a pack of chocolate digestives and nine episodes of The West Wing

If I’m being totally honest, I think I’m partly a teacher because it counteracts my natural indolence. I need a job where not being arsed is definitely not an option. 

Diluting the frenzy

But, while we obviously need the high-octane driven types in the profession, maybe we need the more laidback ones too? Relaxed teachers are important, if only to dilute the frenetic ones. Change for change’s sake will never come from the desk of a slightly lazy person. 

And because we’re not chasing our tail all the time, we’ve got a bit more time to think – which is good. From Newton lying under the apple tree to Archimedes reclining in his bath, some of the greatest leaps in knowledge have happened when people have just been lazing around. 

Which is just as true in the classroom. It’s quite common for a child to have an epiphany about maths in the middle of an art lesson two days later, or to ask a follow-up question about your science lesson on the coach to swimming. 

So maybe it’s time someone put in a good word for the lazy teacher. Surely it’s sometimes better to lie in bed thinking about tomorrow’s lesson rather than hunch over a laptop preparing a 27-slide PowerPoint for it.

Maybe the world won’t end if you spend your lunchtimes in the staffroom chatting about Bake Off rather than getting a head start on your SEND Provision Map. Maybe we shouldn’t have to wait until half-term before we occasionally stop and do nothing without feeling guilty about it. 

Jo Brighouse is a pseudonym for a primary teacher in the West Midlands. She tweets @jo_brighouse

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