So the end of the academic year has whizzed by again. Teachers have done their end of year assessments, end of year reports, weeks of preparing end of year crafty gifts for the children in their class and the whirlwind of end of year assemblies, presentations, toy days, class parties, school trips and sports days.
Finally with a flurry of tears and goodbyes they reach half three on the last day of term. They look at their now bare walls (or still with work up? Even better maybe with some prep done for next year?) and breathe a sigh of exhaustion. "I will sort it out over the summer" they think and flee the building as soon as possible. Some to plan their celebratory end of term night out, some to collapse in front of the TV safe in the knowledge that no planning or preparation needs to be done for a lesson on Monday. Many will wake up in the morning with either a hangover or a summer cold (having battled their way to the end of term resisting a sick day because there is too much to do and now having a body that thinks 'ok you can be sick now. No school for a few weeks')
Yet whatever the teacher does on that first night of the summer hols, almost all will do it with something irking them. A little well meaning, or not so well meaning, comment that has been voiced by a parent, family member or non-teaching friend.
If from a parent the comment will usually come in the well meaning form of "I bet you are ready for a break. My work is just beginning". For some teachers this will not be a comment to cause any second thoughts. For those with children of their own who they now need to entertain for five weeks it will probably prompt them to wonder whether the parent who has made the comment truly thinks that their summer will be harder than yours and that your children will magically disappear leaving you to put your feet up and drink tequila cocktails on a sunny child free beach holiday for the next five weeks. But remember that the comment WAS well meaning - the parent's way of acknowledging that you HAVE worked hard all year and must be ready for a break (and to be fair this is the time when I usually do thank God for how lucky I am that I now get five weeks with my children and do not have to worry about paying for childcare for the holidays).
The far more annoying comment is more likely to come from a member of your family or a non-teaching friend and will come in the form of "You don't know you are born getting all of those holidays!" or "I only get 25 days holiday a year. You spend most of the year on holiday!". These comments are in no way well meaning and will often prompt you to annoyance, if not pure rage. "But I don't actually get paid for 13 weeks a year" you want to scream, "I spend my whole holiday working!" you feel like shouting, "The weeks when I am in school are like running a marathon... with 30 kids, and 30 sets of parents (some of who I am sure hate me) and 30 different problems that I am trying to help with, AND NO TOILET BREAK!!!" you want to gasp before collapsing in exhaustion.
So what do teachers actually do during those long summer holidays? Here is a little insider view of the Secret World of Teachers on Holiday (Channel 4 take note for your next 'Secret World...' documentary).
Week 1: This is the holiday week. The bag of work brought home gets dumped in the hallway or a cupboard. The teacher presents (every one of them loved dearly - especially the home made ones) get put away, cards go up on the windowsill. Gin or beer is consumed, housework that has been ignored all term gets done, school shoes get put away and summer shoes come out. For the teachers that planned ahead planes are boarded and photos of beaches and cocktails are Instagrammed or Facebooked.
For those with children late nights are encouraged in the hope that the kids will have some lie ins to give you some time without children. Inevitably the children will continue to wake up at 7am and immediately demand food, shortly followed by "What are we doing today?" You will suggest some fun craft activity that other people actually pay to go to summer clubs to do. Your children will look at you scathingly, reminding you that they have seen you recycle these activities for years and quite frankly don't give a toss about making ooblek, playdough or an 'exciting' experiment with baking soda and vinegar or a raw egg.
You reach the end of Week 1. Teachers without children are now relaxed. Teachers with children less so, however all teachers are now about to enter the same process over the following weeks.
Week 2: Ok you have had your week of relaxation. Now you begin to realise there are only 4-5 weeks left. Seems a lot but not really. You frantically contact old friends and family who you have ignored for the full academic year to try to get some catch up time. If you have kids they have now settled into holiday mode so are slightly less annoying and demanding (though like Gremlins they will still demand to be fed twelve times a day and amused at least three times). "I really should get some work done" you think. But as it is only week 2 of the holidays you decide to have one more week to recharge. No kids? You do a bit of spring cleaning (missed when it was actually spring because you had a final term to plan - your last chance to make sure you had covered the whole curriculum) and decide what should move from your wardrobe to the charity shop.
Have kids? Then you plan some picnics, park trips, swimming or a theme park - swimming in the guilty pool of balancing parenthood with being a teacher i.e. spending 90% of your year planning excitement and wonder for children who aren't yours only to be too exhausted to do the same for your own children when you get home. If you do decide to get your head down and work then this will probably consist of emptying and sorting out the bag of work that you brought home, writing a list of what you need to do before school starts again and creating a new file on your laptop named "2016-2017".
Week 3: Right your holidays are over. If you have scheduled a housework this week then no doubt you will end up putting 50% of the rubbish that should be thrown away onto a bag for life to take to school. After all that plastic tray from the box of chocolates you finished last week would look great in the playdough area and that odd sock? Surely you could cut a couple of holes in that and use it as your fiftieth idea this year for teaching an effective pencil grip right? Any shopping trips around this time will probably also end up with bags of crafty crap from the pound shop that will sit in the boot of your car until September (then be forgotten until October by which point the new entrant craft you had planned to use them for will be over and done with).
Time to fire up your laptop. Why weren't you a better person who pushed yourself to do that dreaded medium term plan when you were still at school? Why, why, why?!?!?! Maybe you could just do your weekly planning for the first week instead. You know what you need to do in those first two weeks. Do you really need to do the medium term plan right now? Maybe next week. You do your first week of planning, create a new class list for your new class, try to remember which child is which, have a brief panic about whether you will be able to remember which child belongs to which parent at home time for those uncomfortable first few weeks. You look at the medium term plan template but decide instead to write a five page document on how you will make sure that you cover every area of the curriculum neatly over the year. You pat yourself on the back that you have started your summer of work and frantically try to plan something for the following day that is non-school related so that you can feel like you had some holiday this week.
Week 4: Time to do that medium term plan. You open it and type a few ideas in. You go on Pinterest to get some inspiration. Two hours later you have about a hundred great ideas pinned for exploring autumn, Christmas activities and homemade Christmas gifts but absolutely nothing for the first half term. You break for lunch, annoyed that your morning has been wasted. Idiot!
Oh God! You remember what a mess you left the classroom in. You still have three display boards to do and you were going to sort out that cupboard that is like a poorly produced natural disaster movie every time you open it and risk the lava flow or avalanche of notes from past staff meetings, staples that don't fit onto any stapler you own and plastic wallets cascading around your head every time you sneak your hand in for a whiteboard pen. You were going to wash and sterilise all of the building area toys. You need to go through everything in the book corner and pull out the torn books. You haven't even taken down the display of photos of last year's children yet! Will the new parents think you don't care about their children??!?!?!? You plan a day in school. You work hard for 8 hours lugging and washing and scrubbing and wall stapling. If you have children they eat the days worth of food you have packed them in half an hour and check with you every hour "can we go home yet?"
You leave at 4pm. The classroom seems as messy as it was 8 hours ago. If not worse. You start to panic about your empty medium term plan.
Week 5: You have a week left. Maybe a tiny bit longer. Maybe a bit less. There are those two INSET days you forgot about. You start to dream about going back to scratch. If you work in Early Years you go to sleep each night remembering how many tantrums, tears and toilet accidents you get in the first half term. You are already thinking about this year's nativity. But of course you have settling in, Harvest festival, parent's evening and bonfire night to get through first. Why didn't you appreciate the class you have just lost more in that last term? The term when they were finally getting phonics and knew the rules and rarely had a wee on the floor?!?! Fool!
You start to set your alarm for seven to get back into the morning routine. You realise you haven't done any of your own children's homework with them. Or bought them any uniform. Oh damn! Did they bring their PE kit home at the end of term? Where is it? Do their pumps still fit? You spend a day dragging yourself painfully through doing the dreaded medium term plan (that would have only taken an hour if you had just forced yourself to do it when you were still in work mode 5 weeks ago). You begin to hate any form of curriculum or assessment and randomly research schooling in Scandanavian countries whilst seething at the idiocy of the English approach to education. You ruminate to anyone who will listen about how we force our children out of childhood and into standardised testing too soon.
Week 6: Back to school!
You love this job! The children were all far better than you expected. Apart from that one... oh yes and that one too... and did that parent look at you funny? Do they hate you already? Within seconds you are back in work mode, fuelled by coffee and a love of the EYFS. Maybe this won't be so tough after all. I mean if all else fails you do have a medium term plan right?