How to relax as a teacher

It’s Christmas eve 2017 as I write this and we’ve made it to the holiday! What a long term. But, walking back to my car through the school car park on Friday I noticed colleagues loading box upon box of work into their cars – as if they’re not taking time off, just working from home for two weeks. Why do we as teachers find it so hard to relax? To leave work at work and truly unplug?

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Here’s a few things you could try to unplug this holiday, the students will thank you for it when you’re refreshed and re-energised in January.

Leave all your work stuff in the boot of the car – or at least somewhere out of sight.

Don’t spend the holiday looking at the pile of books that you’d like to have marked for the first week back. If there really is something you need to do, leave it in the boot of the car until you’ve got the time to do it, then put it straight away again when you’re done.

Set realistic targets, work systematically and prioritise.

There may be some things you’ll need to do – I get that – but set yourself realistic targets. Remember everything you do is going to take longer than you expect. What you think is just a morning’s work could end up taking you the whole day – and that’s a day you should be spending with the important people in your life. I always use timers when I work – I’m going to do this for one hour – not until it’s finished – because is anything ever really finished in our job?

Work systematically through the list so that you don’t get side tracked into the doing unnecessary things. When you haven’t got the same time pressures as in the working week it’s easy for a task that would normally take you an hour to take four because you’re overthinking it.

Prioritise, you’re not going to be able to completely redesign your schemes of work over the next two weeks – and do you really need to? What one or two things must you do  before going back to work – the rest can wait.

Take a step back and reflect.

Holidays are a great time to get some perspective about things, think about the bigger picture; in terms of your teaching, your classes and your own personal development. Spend some time appreciating the highs and considering how you can reduce the lows next time. Set some medium term targets for yourself to help you prioritise and stay on track.

Use this time to accept that there are things you can’t change, but you can develop ways to deal with them. For example if you are always being asked to take on extra work which isn’t required, think about a polite and respectful way to say no. No one will be offended by this and it will allow you to focus on your teaching – which is what they will thank you for when you’re teaching brilliant lessons.

Try something new.

Something which will continue when work starts again. Research courses or clubs which run every week on an evening. If you have children, could it be something you could do together. This will give you an excuse to leave work behind and do something you may enjoy. I used to do kickboxing at a local leisure centre and there was a childrens’ class in the room next to ours – some parents would sit in the cafe on laptops but others would get involved in the adult class – who do you think got more out of the two hours?

Remember why we do the job we do.

Teaching is an amazing job – if you’re gritting your teeth just to get through the day you’re missing all the brilliant moments that make it a pleasure. Time away can help you appreciate that, it’s great to see the students again on the first day of term – bright eyed and ready to tell you about their holidays.

We all do an important and valuable job with loads of moments which I know I’ll cherish.

And enjoy! You’ve earned it. 

Spend time with your friends and family. Just as “teach creatively” is on the list of objectives I look at everyday, “spend time with important people” is too – with equal importance. These are the people you go to work for, remember you work to live – not live to work! Ultimately these are the people that make you happy and you’re very lucky to have them – so under no circumstances compromise your time with them.

Be “present” – enjoy the now. You’ve worked hard for this holiday!

If you’re going away think about how you can use that when you get back in Jan – read my post about using travelling in your lessons here.

Want some more tips about being a reflective teacher? Read my post about it here.

How do you plan on relaxing this holiday?

How can we as teachers help each other have a work life balance?

Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

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