“Teachers only work 9 – 3 and get 11 weeks holiday a year”
Yeah, right.
We’ve all heard it before, sometimes even from people who work in schools but still seem to only acknowledge the hours we spend in the classroom in front of the actual students. We know that most people don’t realise how much work we do outside of school hours, especially because for so many of us that work happens away from school grounds.
While most teachers got into the job for the contact hours, those precious hours with the funny little humans we call students, the reality is that most of the job these days is paperwork. And oh boy, do we resent it!
Paperwork, how do I resent thee? Let me count the ways!
Actually, let’s not count the ways we resent it. Resentment is an incredibly toxic emotion that has a way of seeping into other areas of our life. I do my best to avoid it at all costs.
Reframing resentment
One of the things I always say to people who are shocked that I have schoolwork to do on school holidays is that they’re not really holidays, they’re flexitime. So, if I want to bust my gut every night for a fortnight before and after the holidays to get it all done, I probably can have two weeks of complete holiday with absolutely no schoolwork. I’ve done that before. I’ve taken overseas trips on school holidays where I knew with absolute certainty I didn’t want to have to worry about anything school related (although I did still complete the annual school opinion survey from a hotel in Denmark on my honeymoon…but that was the only time I thought about school, I swear!). I have a lot of teaching buddies who do this every holiday (not the overseas bit, but the no-schoolwork-on-the-holidays bit). But I always find myself completely exhausted on the actual holiday, so it’s not my preferred way of approaching things.
Because my health and wellbeing is my highest priority, I’ll happily sacrifice some of my school holidays to school work if it means I have less work to squeeze into the last few weeks of the term before and the first few weeks of the term after. I also know I’m not the only one who prefers the more drawn out but also leisurely approach to completing schoolwork on the holidays. A couple of my teaching buddies and I even sometimes have ‘work dates’ where we go into school on the holidays and work in the peaceful, uninterrupted atmosphere that is a school without students!
The best of both worlds
Of course, there’s also a middle ground. This week I plan to spend some time on schoolwork, as well as some household, self-care and social activities that get put off until holidays. Next week, I’m going to spend a few days blissing out on a tropical island and I don’t want to have to worry about my Term 4 planning when I’m there. So it’s a bit of both, and that’s just how I like it.
Fabulous Flexitime
This same principle works not just with school holidays but also weekends during the school term, and even weeknights and weekday mornings. Some of us are night owls and will happily stay up late to finish report cards, meanwhile others of us are early birds and would rather start marking at 5am than stay up until midnight.
The best thing about the way our school system works is that we get to choose how and when and where we will complete the paperwork. Many of us complain a lot about the increasing work load and lack of autonomy in our teaching practices, and it is something we should be concerned about. But let’s not lose sight of the autonomy we do still have.
Other than the classroom contact hours, much of our jobs can be completed at a time and in a manner that suits us. Want to do the paperwork while watching reruns of Gossip Girl at 11pm the night before the last day of term? Great! Prefer to lock yourself in an empty classroom on the school holidays with a white noise track on? Your prerogative. Checking your work emails and doing school opinion surveys from fabulous overseas locations? Maybe don’t make a habit of it, but I reckon it’s just fantastic that you have the option!
Maybe it’s Pollyanna-ish of me, but I would rather dwell on the positives than get stuck in the negatives. So if you’re feeling very resentful about having to complete work tasks these school holidays, have a go a reframing it. How can you do the work in a way and at a time that really, truly suits you. And what can you find to be grateful for in even having the opportunity for flexitime?
Happy holidays, my friends. Don’t work too hard and enjoy your temporary location independence!