Some activities those new to teaching should make a priority
If you’re anything like me, you’ve been counting down the days and you can’t quite believe it’s finally here: half-term.
For teachers and students alike, no two sweeter words have ever been uttered. You’ve been slogging away for weeks and now all of a sudden… (for one week) you don’t have to.
How should you spend all the free time stretching out before you? Whichever way you see fit, of course. But here are my favourite ways of getting the most out of the half-term break:
Spend time with friends and family
I don’t often see the people I love most during term time. There is something about the momentum of the work week that means I rarely make them a priority (sorry Mum!). Even when I do, I find it hard to relax having just got off work the day before or knowing that I have work the next day. A whole week off allows me to properly relax so that I can truly enjoy the people in my life.
Keep a routine
I used to stay up late at night and then sleep through the mornings, but found this made it much harder to get back into the sleep routine needed for school. And then I found that once the routine of sleep goes, anything goes: junk food, alcohol, lazing around in pyjamas all day, browsing the web obsessively. To keep the good habits I’ve built up over the term, I try to go to bed at a reasonable time and set an alarm for the morning.
I will also make a quick plan of what to do each day, starting with the most important task in the morning. There will also be some non-negotiables, such as twenty minutes of exercise, ten pages of a book read or a meal cooked from scratch. Such ‘high-quality leisure’ prevents me from falling into the time sink of checking social media, web browsing or streaming entertainment for hours each day.
I have found that one unfortunate consequence of abundant free time is that it can bring about periods of neuroticism. I find myself beginning to wonder whether teaching really was the best choice of career; or what my colleagues might think of me; or what was I thinking making that joke in front of the headteacher. A jog around the park or a 20-minute HIIT workout keeps those thoughts at bay and makes my time off more joyful.
Read whatever feels important to you. Really good non-fiction has helped me to see the unseen; ideas which I hadn’t previously considered. I like to read around a topic I might be teaching next half-term or a book that could help me address weaknesses in my teaching practice. For example, I’ve been struggling with behaviour in some classes so I intend to read ‘Running the Room’ by Tom Bennett. Recently I finished reading ‘Never Split the Difference’ by Chris Voss who, as a former FBI negotiator, offers fascinating insights into effective verbal communication; some of which I’m excited to try out in the classroom.
Towards the end of the break I like to undertake some light tasks that will make the start of next half term feel a little less jarring. And I don’t mean plan next week’s lessons. Instead, perhaps I’ll get a haircut or make sure my clothes are clean and ironed. Anything that will help me hit the ground running on Monday morning.
It has taken me years to use my half-term break in a way that leaves me feeling refreshed and excited about the half term ahead. Just one of the ideas above could make a big impact on helping you enjoy yours. That said, don’t judge yourself too harshly. However you spend your well-deserved time off, enjoy it.
Personally, I’ll begin by taking some deep breaths and letting the fact sink in.
It’s finally here: half term.