Surviving the summer term blues

27th June 2008 at 01:00
Just when those warm summer evenings kick in and friends meet in pubs for happy rounds of drinks, or eat outdoors in gardens and talk long into the night, the reality for many teachers is that they are simply not up for it

Just when those warm summer evenings kick in and friends meet in pubs for happy rounds of drinks, or eat outdoors in gardens and talk long into the night, the reality for many teachers is that they are simply not up for it. It is a hard fact of life that as the school year draws to a close, so do the physical and mental capacities of teachers.

Can you honestly say that you are still as sharp as a tack, brimming with enthusiasm and 100 per cent ready for that last round of school activities? Does the prospect of sports day, the summer fair, field trips, presentation evening or meet the new intake day fill you with joy? I suspect not. This has nothing to do with lack of commitment or love of the job. This is to do with exhaustion.

Of course, we all know about work-life balance, but alas that is only in our heads at this time of year. In reality, what is top of the agenda for most of us now is a short-term survival strategy for the last few weeks of term. While most of the population work to the close of year in December, the teaching profession has this topsy-turvy life of tying up loose ends in the middle of a heat wave (er, that is when it isn't wet and grey). So .

Accept that your colleagues are equally tired, and if you are experiencing snappiness, it isn't necessarily a sign of an enemy throwing down a gauntlet, so don't overreact. (I personally never underestimate the short- term power of a chocolate cake to rally the troops.)

It is understandable to want to tidy up in an obsessive kind of way - papers, books, classrooms, offices - until everything is ship-shape and perfect. But the ship will sink, and you with it, if you see this as the top priority. Let it keep until you are back on top of your game, or during the long break.

Planning for next year is an admirable activity, but needs a fresh eye and brain. Get the bare bones in place in time for your healthy return in September, so that when at last you hit the ground running, the ground won't rise up and hit you.

Finally, government pronouncements don't stop just because teachers are all winding down for the summer break. Avoid reading about failing schools, further drops in standards, exams becoming much easier, or any such reports. Remember your work-life balance and enjoy winding down.

Lindy Barclay, Deputy head, Redbridge Community School, Southampton.

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