Special days

30th April 2004 at 01:00
Her house may be clean and the cat well fed, but Maria Corby has mixed feelings about the holidays

Like most teachers, I count the days to the next holiday. I couldn't do such a demanding job without frequent breaks - although holidays can be a hard time for teachers. Really! First, there's the unwinding, which usually results in you succumbing to the virus you've managed to fight off so far; then there's the pressure of doing everything you've put off until the holidays, such as clean the house and feed the cat; then there's the school work you've brought home, which lurks on the dining table and in your head until the last week. Finally there's the dread of going back; after 20-odd years and even though I love my job, I still get butterflies and sleepless nights as term time looms.

In other jobs, your colleagues are still at work when you're away. When you return, the focus is on you. How was your holiday? We missed you. What did you bring us? In schools, we're all off and we all return together, all looking slightly dazed, and spend thefirst hour greeting everyone with "howwasyourholidaylovelythankyouhowwasyours". By lunchtime it's as if itnever happened.

The other problem, the one we don't like to admit, is that we actually like our routine, and knowing we've got sensory cooking on Wednesday, a tactile trail working party meeting on Tuesday and lunch at the pub on Friday can help us through the week. The children find it hard too - some of them find evening and weekends difficult without the structure and routine of school, never mind six weeks of summer holidays.

For parents, too, holidays can be tough. It's hard enough for working mums and dads. If you have a child with special needs, finding childminders or helpers to accompany him or her to holiday playschemes can be a nightmare.

Six weeks is a long time. Parents often report difficult behaviour during the holidays, and the children come back in September having forgotten how to eat with a spoon or swim a length of the pool.

So, what's to be done? The proposed six-term year would help our planning and avoid some of the problems. Then again, listening to non-teaching friends talk about how they are going to spend their four weeks a year makes me think holiday stress may not be such a bad problem after all.

Maria Corby is deputy head of a special school for pupils with severe and multiple learning difficulties. She writes under a pseudonym

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