Switching off

There are 10 types of people in the world. Those who understand ternary and those who don’t. And those who thought they knew where this joke was going.

I think there are two types of teacher: those who get to the end of the school year, take home nothing more than their usual bag, and relax throughout the summer; and then those who spend all year adding things to their “when I have some time in the summer I’ll work on..” list; are the last ones to leave on the Friday after having a clearout of their office/classroom, and take home an inordinate amount of school-related work and material. If you’re reading this in July/August then, like me, you are probably the latter type.

But you teachers get so much holiday. And they pay you for it?!

First I have to own up. Working in the independent sector does give me a longer summer break than many and so I make no complaint about attending 3 CPD days in my first week off. In fact, having those occur when I am no longer teaching perhaps meant I approached them with more energy and focus than I would normally have been able to muster. I even considered flaking out on one of them but am so glad I didn’t: I made a new professional connection (never underestimate the networking potential of PD events!) and the day itself was of great value.

I don’t know how many problems I have, as maths is one of them.

So what’s my problem? Well I’m juggling my conscience, conscientiousness, and need for decent rest. Sketching down a quick list of summer projects, I can see now that I could easily keep myself busy every day, every week until the next school year starts. But we need to be well-rested, refreshed and eager in those hugely important early days of term. It’s time to decide the balance between what’s important, what’s urgent, what I, personally, would like to achieve, and what can be left in preference for leisure time. My list includes tweeting and blogging more, catching up on reading the stream of books I’ve bought during the last few months, completing one or two MOOCs that have caught my attention, making a head start on my next Open University course(s), experimenting with iBooksAuthor (or iTunesU or Moodle or other apps and software), updating my year-planning after reflecting on the past year, preparing for an INSET session I’m delivering on day 0… I could probably go on.

Have you tried switching it off and on again?

It’s not revolutionary and perhaps to many it’s obvious. But my active decision now is to metaphorically (literally, as the kids would say) switch myself off and back on again. I have a week’s holiday booked with a non-teaching friend next week and I’ve made a pact with myself: no email, no facebook, no twitter, no mobile phone even, so all temptation is removed. I’m relying on him taking a phone for when might actually need one. I’m taking a book (as unrelated to maths and education as I can find on my shelves) and am fully prepared for a healthy dose of doing very little (Nichtstun – one of my favourite German words).

What are you doing today? Nothing. That’s what you said yesterday. Yeh, but I’ve not finished yet.

As for what happens when I come back? That’ll be another story for another day. I’m not even going to begin those plans now. Whatever type of teacher you are, make the most of the summer and look after yourself. Yes it’s a long block, but we only get it once a year!


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