Working over a holiday. What's that all about? My non-teaching friends can't understand why many teachers spend time during their holidays going back into their workplace to “work in peace”. They say things like, “Holidays are about being away from work,” and, “You're meant to spend time with family – not back in work!” I can't argue with these comments – that's exactly what holidays are for – so why do so many teachers not follow that advice?
Let's have a look at the two most common reasons for coming into school during the holidays:
- Getting ahead I've heard lots of teachers say that this is why they come into work when they're supposed to be on holiday. The demands of the classroom, along with the paperwork, extracurricular clubs and general demands of life, can make you feel like you're drowning in a swamp. Those extra assessments you’ve still to mark or the data entry in the tracking system or even the report cards you've still to write – these are all things that teachers do in school over the holiday. This is something all teachers have experienced – however, if that's how you feel then I really think a good, proper holiday away from work is what you need.
- Looking good If headteachers go into school during holidays, then they often make a point of telling their staff that they'll be there “in case you want to come in”. Although done with good intentions, this can also make teachers think that they should be showing that they are willing by putting on a brave face and going into work. I have certainly done this in the past: I've used this time to do things like gut my classroom out or to finally get to those 100 resources that were waiting to be laminated. It didn't feel good going in, although it was constructive in the end.
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These are the two most common reasons for going into school during the holidays – but what is the best argument for staying away from work?
Working in the school holidays
For me, it’s about your wellbeing. In a job with a variety of pressures coming from all over the place, a holiday is essential so that you can recharge your batteries and give your all to the classes you teach when you return. Paperwork can wait whilst you take time to decorate the spare room after putting it off for months or go swimming with the children or even visit the elderly auntie you haven't seen for ages.
Doing things like these will make you feel better in body and mind and, ironically, possibly more productive when you return to work. I think that staff who return happy, healthy and ready to go will do better than staff who are jaded and carry a sense of bitterness for having had to go into work during the holidays.
If you're in Scotland, and have one week left of your holiday, then please enjoy it and recharge. If you teach elsewhere, and the holiday is still to come, then please consider putting yourself first this spring. You’ll feel the benefits – and so should your pupils.
Adam Black is a primary teacher in Scotland. He tweets @adam_black23