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  • Writer's pictureAdrian Bethune

6 tips to help teachers work smarter during the summer holidays.

Updated: Jul 13, 2022

As we limp towards the finish line of the first full academic year in over 2 years, the thought of doing schoolwork over the summer holidays may send a cold shiver down your spine. Or, you could be one of those teachers who happily uses some time to start planning ahead for September and getting their room and resources ready for their new class.

Neither approach is right or wrong. It simply comes down to whatever works best for you (as long as you don’t feel forced into sacrificing your hard-earned break!).

So, wherever you sit on the ‘doing-work-in-the-holidays’ spectrum, here are 6 things to consider that will allow you to feel prepared for the new academic year while enjoying the break you so greatly deserve.

1.Eat a frog

Mark Twain is thought to have said: “If the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.”

By the same token, if you know you’ve got work to do over the holidays, why not do it at the beginning rather than right at the end?

If you spend the first few days of your summer still in work mode, completing the planning and school admin you need to do, you then have the rest of the holiday to relax in the knowledge that your to-do list is done. So, eat that frog and kick back!

2.Focus on YOU

Working during the summer holidays doesn’t necessarily mean only focussing on lesson planning and admin. With 6 weeks out of the classroom you have the perfect opportunity to tune into what you might need as a teacher and your own professional development.

This could be enriching your knowledge on a topic that you’re passionate about by making your way through that pile of books you’ve been meaning to read. Check out our Teachappy Book Club on our Insta stories highlights for some inspiration.

Or focussing on your own wellbeing by signing up to our short and accessible online course, Staff Wellbeing & Self-Care in Schools, co-written with Dr Emma Kell. Take advantage of our summer offer with 20% off individual licences until 31/08/22. Simply use code summer22 when you sign up.

Whatever it might be, taking the time to focus on your own passion and skills in the classroom will not only NOT feel like work, but will ultimately benefit the children in the end.

3.Buddy up

There’s a Turkish proverb that says no road is long with good company. It reminds us that when we do things with others, especially those whose company we enjoy, life seems better and a bit easier.

I remember a summer when I was about to start with Year 2 for the first time, so I arranged to meet up with a colleague who was a veteran in that year group.

We sat in her garden, brainstorming ideas and plans for the year ahead, in the sunshine, drinking cold beers. It was the best planning session I’ve ever had.

If you do need to do work over summer, or go into school to prepare for the new year, do it with your favourite colleagues. Help one another with planning and displays, and have a laugh along the way.

4.Face the music

According to happiness expert Paul Dolan, listening to music affects “the brain region associated with positive emotion and memory in a way that no other input to our happiness production process can”.

So, if you do need to go into school to tidy up, plan and get stuff ready, do it with a soundtrack that taps into the pleasure centre of your brain.

Positive emotions help us think more flexibly, creatively and imaginatively, so we’re likely to have our best ideas in those moments too.

5.Less is more

Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. This means that if you give yourself four hours to complete a task that should take two, you’ll end up taking all four hours to get the job done.

So be strict about how much time you set aside to work over the holidays. If you know it’s going to take three hours to complete the tasks on your to-do list, set aside that amount of time and no more. And make sure you reward yourself with something fun to do after the work is completed.

5.Remember, this is your life

Mary Oliver ends her poem The Summer Day with the famous line: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one and wild precious life?” Chances are, most of us wouldn’t answer that question “Errr, a bit of planning on fronted adverbials and putting name labels on the cloakroom coat pegs.”

Here’s the thing: our time on this Earth is precious and limited. And we have no idea when our time will be up. The way we use our time is massively important.

Yes, you could do work over the summer and make your life easier in the autumn term, or you could spend your time travelling, seeing friends, eating, laughing, visiting museums, reading, going to the cinema or simply vegging out and relaxing.

Or a bit of both. It’s your call. Remember, what your students need most in the new academic year is a well-rested, healthy and happy teacher.

So, however you spend your summer, make sure it’s what you really want to do with your time and your life. Happy summer holidays!

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