Summer sloth is really the calm before the storm

5th August 2011 at 01:00

It's the summer holidays. That sounds so good I think I'll say it again. It's the summer holidays. Hallelujah! Nearly 40 school-free days.

What is APP? AFL? FSM? They mean nothing to me this month. I'm swimming in the morning, watching dreadfully addictive entertainment channels in the afternoon and dancing away on a Tuesday, shackle-free on a week night.

My husband will often give me a look that hovers somewhere between disapproval and pity as he glances over to see his wife in her PJs, food caked to her face, watching the E! True Hollywood Story on Elizabeth Taylor for the fifth time.

"All this time off and this is what you choose to do?" he asks. "Yup," I reply, scoffing another mouthful of popcorn.

This is our bonus: the bankers get money, we get time. We should treasure our prize for 40 weeks of public servitude, of slogging away up the mountain, wading through treacle and a whole host of endless cliches as we strive to help pupils achieve their potential.

Yet I was invigorated by the end-of-term fever that spreads through a school in the last couple of days. We're all so battle-worn that I'm surprised anyone can even muster the effort to put in a DVD and press play.

But a colleague hit it on the head for me. "I love these last days, because there's no pressure to assess. You can just teach, be with the pupils and develop working relationships. It's how teaching should be all the time."

It would be naive, of course, to suggest that teachers' spirits aren't buoyed by the promise of six weeks without work. Like most people, we like holiday.

The strike action earlier in the summer generated more support than I feared it would, but there still seemed to be a public sentiment that we should check all our needs in at the cloakroom the minute we start a teaching career. One outraged parent was quoted saying: "Teachers are being selfish by taking the day off. What about the needs of our children?"

Not once during the banking crisis have I read, watched or listened to the description of the bonus-driven bankers as selfish. Greedy, yes. Fat cats, yes. But never selfish. And why? Because we already know their profession had profit as the bottom line. We accept those people might want to make money as part of their job.

But teachers' bottom line is pupils' results (or achievement as it should rightly be) and teaching is seen as a "giving" profession. So how dare we say we need a sufficient amount in our pensions and to retire at an age when we can still enjoy life? When children are involved, our rights take a back seat.

That's why it's more important than ever to make the most of these holidays, to recharge our batteries for another year of teaching - and show the Government that we will not take this lying down.

Amy Winston is an English teacher at a comprehensive in the West Midlands.

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