Five weeks off. Probably the most contentious aspect of teaching. That and the mythical 3pm finish. The very things that dreams are made of.
And I loved the summer holidays. I’d spend time cleaning, because I was too busy in term time. I’d spend time having a lie in and reading on the sofa, because I was too busy in term time. Admittedly I’d spend the first three days of the summer in school, laminating and stapling backing paper to walls – but at least watching Friends on the big screen, wearing whatever I liked and arriving whenever I chose to. There was no paperwork I had to hand in by yesterday, or endless piles of marking.
Teaching holidays are a definite perk of the job. So one crucial question remained as I approached a year of working in the city – would I miss the summer off?
As many of my friends approached the final countdown, I ended the summer term with nine days leave remaining to eke out over the thirty that stretched out before me.
On the first glorious day that all my teacher friends were able to snuggle down into the duvet for an extra couple of hours, I got up
when sometime after my alarm went off and trundled off to work.
This year I have fully engaged with the concepts of ‘weekend’ and ‘social life’. I cannot quite fathom how I fitted in so much before on top of marking and planning – I don’t think I had a single spare moment. But I haven’t once completed a 50 hour working week. I’ve achieved a 50 hour week away from home, but when a proportion of that has been spent in the pub, it’s hardly a hardship. Which is probably why, on the first day of the summer holidays, I didn’t really mind getting up beyond the usual groan. Compared to teaching, where social life mainly exists in the holidays, being able to sustain this throughout the term means you complete the term feeling more rounded and less resentful. I didn’t end the term desperate for a rest.
Work is different in the summer too. In the term time I’m delivering workshops to school children, in the summer I’m preparing resources, planning, creating new ideas, laminating – everything I was previously doing in my holidays and weekends anyway. Being at work to do that seems fair exchange for not completing these tasks in my own time. My colleagues were off at varying times, but we had time to chat – much like INSET day lunches where everyone sits together for a full half hour before disappearing off to do tasks. I got the traditional teacher injury of ‘laminater’s hand’ from too much cutting out or rigid plastic; so in that sense it felt much like usual.
After much agonising, completing a year of angst over when to take holiday, I opted for long weekends rather than a week and a half’s solid leave. I was good naturedly, but none too gently, ribbed by my ex-colleagues over my lack of holiday. And while I would have loved to be at home, I haven’t actually minded plodding into work. The comparative relaxation of my working week has rendered the holiday less necessary, though still enjoyable.
As August 29th approached, in the teaching world I knew there were precious few days left. All of the tasks I’d left until the end of the summer would start to weigh on me, anxiety would increase and I’d begin to steel myself for the approaching onslaught: autumn term is long, it’s getting darker, and it can feel like eons until October half term. I would dread the beginning of term. By May 2014 I knew I couldn’t stomach that dread any longer.
Come the 29th August this year, I was on holiday, relaxed. On 1st September I went into work, same as most of the summer. No sinking dread, no feeling of steeling myself for the impending year. Dolly Parton’s ‘Working 9 to 5’ feels like an exultant cry of joy, rather than a drag. The back-to-work blues are no more. Summer holidays are sumptuous, but less stress and a social life are definitely sweeter.
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