How many days have you been into school so far this holiday? One or two to clear up after the end of term? A few to put up displays? Best part of a week to build the perfect reading corner? An afternoon sticking on those beautiful tray labels with a matching photograph for each child’s name? Or was it maybe just long enough to make sure you were there for longer than that newly qualified teacher down the corridor?
It seems that in a profession that is overloaded with workload issues, there are plenty in the primary sector who are determined to create their own. Not satisfied with working ridiculously long hours during term time, teachers can be found beavering away in classrooms day-after-day throughout the summer.
Well, just stop!
For a start, you’re making the rest of us look bad. Sure, when I was a new teacher, I wanted to be in during the summer holiday, putting my mark on the classroom that was soon to be my home, but now, frankly, I’d rather spend the time enjoying the sun, watching the Olympics and generally living the life that has been so lacking throughout the rest of the year.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not going to try to argue the case that there are six weeks of blissful idyll there for the taking. It’s not quite that simple, despite what the average tabloid-reader might think. But after 39 weeks of teaching, with some of the longest working hours around, there has to be some downtime.
One concern has to be that we have developed a generation of teachers who are unable to switch off from it all, or who feel that they need always to be doing more.
One of the most important pieces of advice I think any of us can offer a new teacher is to realise that there’s always more that could be done; but that doesn’t mean that you should always do it.
After 39 weeks of teaching, with some of the longest working hours around, there has to be some down-time
Every minute of your time as a teacher – indeed, as a person – is valuable, and any time spent on creating that amazing 3D display about river formations is time that could have been spent with family or friends – or simply spent thinking about yourself, instead.
It means that any time spent on schoolwork has got to be worthwhile. That applies to marking, it applies to staff meetings, and it has to apply just as much to the time spent on work during the holidays.
Are those ceiling drapes really going to transform learning in your classroom next year? Does the topic display that you’ll use for only four weeks really need to include a 3D model of the eye? Will the beautiful pattern on your tray labels boost results next year?
And perhaps the key question to ask: who are you doing it for?
Absolutely, the children will be wowed when they first walk through the door, but there’s every possibility that their amazement won’t last even as long as it took you to put it together in the first place. They’re a remarkably fickle bunch! So after the initial wow, if there’s not going to be any long-lasting impact, is this prettifying really being done for them, or for you?
This year, instead of making a better display than ever before, why not stay at home and have a better family barbecue than ever before. Instead of taking pride in the elaborate “learning environment” you’ve created, enjoy your home environment. And if you really can’t stop yourself from doing “school work” in what’s left of this holiday, do the best sort: get a few excellent children’s books, a large glass of something nice, and sit back and read.
Those of us already lazing around will be glad of your company.
Michael Tidd is deputy head at Edgewood Primary School in Nottinghamshire