Who’s up for a game of teacher-chat bingo?

We all know the deal. The summer holiday countdown has begun, and within weeks the teaching fraternity will start being on the receiving end of those apparently rib-tickling quips from friends and family about our six weeks of holiday bliss.

Score one point for any of the following you anticipate hearing from your in-laws, pals or envious siblings in the coming months:

  • “You teachers have it good. Six weeks of holiday. You’d never survive in my career.”
  • “Blimey – summer holiday already. How many weeks do they give you these days? It’s not five minutes since you had half term.”
  • “Six weeks of holiday and a 9am to 3pm work day. God, I chose the wrong profession.”

And score 10 points for the following killer remark:

  • “Six weeks of holiday? You’ve had most of the last year off. Shouldn’t you be keeping going and helping kids catch up?”

Even as a former teacher it still grates when I hear comments like these handed out so flippantly to teaching professionals who work so darned hard and scarcely stop thinking about their pupils and lesson plans.

But to hear such comments this year, after a 15-month period of such upheaval, challenge and public scrutiny – well, it hurts more than ever to know that the country’s dedicated educators have to listen to taunts about daring to take a holiday.

Indeed, sometimes I wonder whether one of the underlying ‘pandemics’ to have emerged throughout this time, is a pandemic of shaming and blaming. Too often we hear judgment and assumption lobbed the way of a professional group, a subset of the population or a person whose own circumstance we don’t know well enough to condemn.

It’s for all these reasons that shaming and blaming ourselves has absolutely no place when it comes to this year’s summer holiday, and why – with no exception – you have to press pause and restore yourself in the summer weeks.

With the benefit of my 20-20 hindsight spectacles, here are my top tips:

Stick to the schedule

Before you even start the holiday, make a plan for when you’ll carry out any work that needs to be done during the holiday, and stick to it. Park it and relax, without feeling the need to keep ‘dipping in’.

Out of sight, out of mind

Confirm to yourself, partner, kids or housemates that you’re truly committing to ‘non school’ time. Put your school books, planners and even your lanyard into a spare room.

Divide and conquer

Don’t face everything alone. What tasks and activities could you and your team battle through now to make September a little smoother?

Love the list

I love a good list but I’ve always been terrible at writing to-do lists that I can actually use, so I started colour coding them. Green – can’t live without jobs; amber – would be nice but not essential; red – get off the list.

This allows you to set your priorities and realise that occasionally our to-do lists create anxiety in themselves, rather than solving the problem.

No to the notification

Empty your email inbox and switch off all notifications. Having emails hanging around and nagging at you is the last thing you need during your holiday. Going through everything now will be a right pain, but well worth it when it’s off your mind and dealt with.

Embrace the escape

You have permission to be off and resting like everyone else during their holiday. Since I came out of the classroom I’ve realised the constant fear and guilt I tortured myself with when it came to my downtime.

I couldn’t be the last one in; I couldn’t be the first to leave. I’d volunteer to do after-school clubs, half term revision classes and summer school. Reflecting back, all this did was mean I was wiped out, exhausted and no good to any of my classes or colleagues at certain times of year.

You’re entitled to your holiday and deserve it every year, but this year more than ever.


Sarah Ledger is a former English teacher and deputy head. She is director of the literacy learning solution Lexonik which delivers programmes in schools throughout the UK. Follow Lexonik on Twitter at @lexonikst.