stahl-anxiety-2Image by AnthonyJess/Adobe Stock

A friend forwarded me a screenshot of a tweet in the last week of term: I’m paraphrasing but it went something along the lines of: every summer, I miss the students and my job; teaching gives me a purpose and I miss that purpose. This person clearly felt a sense of dread when looking ahead to the summer off.

Whether I’d like to admit it or not, I can affiliate with some of this.

Here’s why:

  • Teaching has a famine or feast nature to it in terms of your free time: you’re either figuring out how to squeeze a sleep into your working week or looking at a six-week stretch of holiday. Switching mind-set can be challenging and can leave you feeling a bit adrift.
  • You’re so used to making everything you do purposeful and efficient: everything from trying to use that spare 40 minutes after work to get some exercise, to factoring in how to teach a lesson and give students one to one progress reviews at the same time. Everything is driven by an objective and the need to be timely.
  • Routine: you live your life by it. Time-tables, duty day, term dates, detention duty, parents’ evening, when you can go to the toilet…. Then the terms time’s over and you can pee when you want. It’s a stark shift and I get why some people struggle to climatize to it. You’re not alone.
  • You don’t usually have time for you: your hobbies, your books, your exercise, your friends, your partner. And, if we don’t have some of these things pinned down, we don’t worry about it or feel sad about it in the term time because we don’t have time to. Then you get six weeks to notice that there are some gaps. And, that’s scary and can feel sad.
  • Guilt: why aren’t I doing something? I’m always doing something? Or, feeling bad that I’m not when there are things that needed doing yesterday. Why aren’t I enjoying this time off…?

I’ve worked really hard on getting over some of these feelings and anxieties. I genuinely don’t feel the same sense of being adrift or the guilt as I used to. Here’s how I got/am getting over it:

  • I got more balance in term time and made time for me. You CAN do this. It IS possible. Speak to your line manager or a mentor if you’re struggling to manage work life balance and if they’ve got anything about them, they’ll help you figure it out. Chip away at the famine or feast way of life and find some health and well-being, in and out of term time.
  • Find out what you’re interested in and join/do something. A hobby. And, don’t worry if it takes a bit of time: I’ve tap-danced, tried to speak Spanish…you name it.  But you get there in the end and it works. It gives you a sense of purpose and enjoyment in terms of your own life, when you have free time.
  • Plan ahead: get dates in the diary for those longer holidays- see friends and family.
  • Save some money, if you can, and get away.
  • Force yourself to lay about a bit or go for a pointless walk. Try to stop yourself looking for the reason why you’re doing it. You just are, you fancied it.
  • Accept that you won’t feel relaxed straight away: it takes me about a week, two sometimes.
  • Talk about it.

Whatever you’re doing this summer, I hope you find the discipline to not need term time discipline. Enjoy the break, everyone. We deserve it.

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