Collapsing into the holidays


On the final day of a half term I wonder how many teachers share this sentiment? I certainly do, and a quick poll of my twitter network suggests it is not a rare feeling.

My own anecdotal observations suggest that it is in fact largely an accepted part of the job. Teachers may moan about it, but the frantic pace and heavy workload, ever increasing until punctuated by a holiday is by many seen as just the way things are in this career.

I can’t help asking myself, why?

I do not mean the obvious question of why. I fully understand the exhaustion caused by the pace of school life, with it’s unforeseen issues, changed plans and constant interruptions. I share the exhaustion that saw many teachers able to do nothing for the first night of their holidays but crash on the sofa and cease to move.

What I question is why is this culture so much a part of  UK schools? Is it really necessary, and what impact does it have on the learning of the pupils we are meant to be meeting the needs of?

I’m not sure I have the answers, but I can’t help feeling that this state of affairs is deeply unhelpful. I wonder what could be done to shift this culture to a more productive and healthy one, both for teachers and learners.

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12 thoughts on “Collapsing into the holidays”

  1. I think the most worrying part is the fact that most teachers that I can think of feel this way at least two weeks from any holiday.

    1. I totally agree, and what does this do to our productivity? I am not sure what the answer is but I know something needs to change!

      1. For some reason teachers usually fail to grasp the idea of the marginal cost of their time. I genuinely believe that I teach better when I haven’t been doing paperwork the night before. I think it is a change that has to come from management but, I think that by the time people get that far, they have just decided to accept that the way things are is is the way things are.

      2. For some reason teachers usually fail to grasp the idea of the marginal cost of their time. I genuinely believe that I teach better when I haven’t been doing paperwork the night before. I think it is a change that has to come from management but, I think that by the time people get that far, they have just decided to accept that the way things are is is the way things are.

    2. I totally agree, and what does this do to our productivity? I am not sure what the answer is but I know something needs to change!

  2. Great reflective post Oliver. I love the phrase collapsing into the holidays. I’m going to have a think about why it happens here. Does it not happen anywhere else in the world? I assumed it was a teacher thing rather than an English one!

    1. Thanks Julia.

      I am not sure if it is purely a UK thing, just didn’t want to assume it was universal as I know I have an international readership. I would be very interested to find out if this is the case in other parts of te world, an if not then what makes the difference.

      1. Well *winking as she speaks* you’re on holiday so could do a survey!! Seriously, it would be interesting to know.

  3. Your post struck a chord with me. As an NQT I kind of expect things to take longer, subsequently giving less free time and more exhaustion, but I do look around at my more experienced colleagues and they are all in a similar position.
    However what worries me more is the pace and amount we are expected, and trying to, cram into a day, a week, a term, a year. Attempting to cover the curriculum as well as everything else feels like it comes at the expense of enjoying learning for learnings sake, leaves work unfinished, concepts misunderstood and children as exhausted as teachers.

  4. Your post struck a chord with me. As an NQT I kind of expect things to take longer, subsequently giving less free time and more exhaustion, but I do look around at my more experienced colleagues and they are all in a similar position.
    However what worries me more is the pace and amount we are expected, and trying to, cram into a day, a week, a term, a year. Attempting to cover the curriculum as well as everything else feels like it comes at the expense of enjoying learning for learnings sake, leaves work unfinished, concepts misunderstood and children as exhausted as teachers.

  5. Great post.

    There was a move a few years ago to change the way holiday worked. One of the key ideas was reduce the six week summer hols, but make two week breaks between regular sized terms (Xmas would be fixed, Easter would get a long weekend if it fell outside a holiday). It never took off, but I think it would be an improvement.

    The other thing I’ve become aware of is this unspoken feeling that in return for 13 weeks holiday, the time we are working we should be working REALLY hard. But as Simon says, exhausted teachers are not good teachers.

    The sooner we can have a grown up conversation about this the better, but I don’t see it coming any time soon I’m afraid.

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