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Half Term: A much needed break.

When I look at the world, I see many people build big beautiful houses, but live in broken homes. We spend more time learning to make a living than we do to make a life’.

Half terms should be a time of relaxation & adventure. Yet for many teachers they are a time of loneliness & a chance to catch up with their endless to do lists.

Teaching can be a lonely profession. We are surrounded by people we spend 30+ hours a week with. We teach students of all ages, races, creeds & cultures. But once every lesson has been taught and book marked, we can rest, recuperate, recover & spend time with those we care about. But many teachers will sacrifice their lives for their careers, spend time away from loved ones, work unimaginable hours & don’t, either through choice or circumstances, have a personal life that allows them to enjoy their time off.

I tweeted this earlier this year. The coverage was incredible but I still stand by the message.

Many people I began my PGCE with were young, single, fresh faced graduates. All determined to leave their mark on education. Like me, teaching was a lifelong ambition, a childhood dream. I worked every hour to get there & once I was in my own classroom, I was in essences ‘living the dream’. I would occupy my weekends, evenings & half terms with more work. A new knowledge organiser, a new PowerPoint, a quirky new lesson idea. I was absolutely obsessed. Yet I knew it was only a matter of time till this dream would become a nightmare.

The Conversation

The day it dawned upon me that I was building a successful career at that cost of having a miserable personal life, it all hit me. This is not to say that many teachers don’t have vibrant family lives and incredible careers. Those who have got the work-life balance correct, I’m in awe.

So I was waiting at the photocopier & overheard two colleagues talking about their half terms. They had plans, were showing one another family photos & sharing plans. One of them, turned to me and said “Shuaib, what are your plans for half term?”. I was in panic. Ping ponged in my head was “SOW to do” & “Year 11 intervention to plan”. I froze, I had realised the I had nothing planned or to look forwards to. I had worked every half term, endlessly to escape that emptiness that was being left in my personal life. I walked away from the photo copier, went to the closest staff toilet & burst into tears. That was the most difficult moment & realisation of my life. That evening I drove home with ‘Passenger – Let Her Go’ playing on the radio, I got home and picked up The Soul of a Butterfly – the Muhammad Ali Autobiography and read

When I look at the world, I see many people build big beautiful houses, but live in broken homes. We spend more time learning to make a living than we do to make a life’.

Never has a quote ever hit me so hard. This was definitely a sign.

Half term really is a time for yourself and your loved ones. Photo by Ros Asquith

Offering a hand.

I love teaching. I absolutely love working in education & feel so privileged to be qualified to teach. I love the teaching community, Edutwitter & the challenges that come with it. I love improving & innovating. I love teaching. But do I love it more than I love my health, sanity & close friends & family? Were all the hours I was going actually making me happy? Or actually giving me fulfilment. Right at the beginning of my journey in education back in 2013, I always said “Do it while you love it”. Work felt life, well yeah, a job. My enthusiasm was leaving me, I was growing more & more distant with my role.

I’m not here to complete a personal rant. I know the choices I made, I fully stand by them. But with half term looming, I’m so keen to reach out to those who may have a difficult half term, a lonely half term or one spent working. These are my tips to support yourself & how colleagues can support you.

Be kind – If you know a colleague that finds their work-life balance difficult, talk to them. They may just need a sincere ear, someone to relay ideas too & gain advice from. Just be mindful, think about that colleague & how you can support them. Even when you’re talking about your half term plans, be mindful of the person that is struggling. We genuinely don’t know what others are going through. Yes, celebrate your successes but be modest in showcasing them.

Text or call a colleague – when you’re feeling lonely, it can feel like the whole world is against you. It can feel like no one cares! I know that feeling too well. But I would always text work colleague, I’d always keep it non-work related. A simple text can really make someone’s day, it gives them hope. Having that feeling that someone out there cares, albeit seemingly just innocuous, it really does help.

Make plans – even if it’s; going to the bank, post office, getting a hair cut, walk the dog, eating at your favourite restaurant, starting a new Netflix series, catching up with a friend, seeing nephews or nieces, beginning a new book or writing a blog (cough, cough), just make plans. Fill your diary with plans. As long as you’re not working, that’s a real victory.

Don’t work – I’m not advocating negligence of work or allowing your standards to drop. But what if you ‘accidentally’ leave your planner at work or ‘forget’ your USB. Not working is wellbeing. Switching off is not working. Work will always be there, your half term is a week or two. Enjoy the rest. You deserve too. Working all half term isn’t good wellbeing. Neither should you do it or be encouraged to do so!

In Summary:

Like with many students, for some teachers, school is the place where they make most of their meaningful interactions. May be the only place where someone says a simple ‘hello’ and ‘how are you?’ Classrooms are theatres of learning. Yet there’s significant pressures on teachers to be star performers every lesson. Excessive workloads, personal issues, limited work-life balance; can make a classroom feel like this; a lonely place indeed.

Half term is your time. Enjoy. I genuinely mean that, enjoy it. 7 or 8 weeks you’ve done an immaculate job. Now have 7 days to look after yourself and do some immaculate wellbeing.

Thank you for reading.

Shuaib Khan

Twitter: @shuaibkhan26

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