The end of term: fatigue, reflections and holidays

Fergal Roche

I just want to lie in a dark room on a cold slab where I can’t feel anything, where all the noise stops, where no one is at my door wanting a decision, with no computer or handheld, no chair of governors walking up the school drive unannounced. Just the noise of my own heartbeat.

Which is still racing.

Recognise this feeling?

Your bio-rhythms are telling your body that it’s time to collapse. But just before you do…

Spend five minutes writing down a few bullet points of what you have achieved this year, the impact you have made. It’s not bragging; it’s taking stock. And you need to do it.

Once you focus on how your work has translated into some sort of benefit for those around you, your energy should start to recover a bit. You should have a good few weeks to do that thoroughly, reflecting on the road that you have travelled over the past year. And if you have got any energy left to do it, repeat to your staff how they have made an impact, and try to be as specific as possible.

Then leave the building.

How do headteachers actually spend their summer holidays?

Well, to answer this question we asked our six year 10 work-placement students to survey headteachers at a training course we were running last week. They discovered that Zoe is off to Peppa Pig World with her husband and two-year-old boy.

Anne from Southwater Junior Academy is actually going into school and is looking forward to it. She really appreciates the chance to reflect while it’s quiet with no interruptions. She can work on her vision and plan, step back and think about things she doesn’t get a chance to do during the year – but then she’s off to Florence for a few days.

Hannah Brown from New Marston Primary is off to the Malvern Hills in their family motorhome with her two-year-old and one-year-old. She’s going to spend one week working, one week off, throughout the summer. Weeks three and four are in Cornwall at an all-inclusive hotel – the luxury – she says! Her final week is up in Scotland – her husband is a Glaswegian by birth.

While in school, Hannah will spend most of her time planning a ten-minute introduction for the INSET day and what she will say to her very lovely staff team. She and her friend (they trained together and happened to be at our event together) are taking a lesson from one of the facilitators and will be organising an away day together – to reflect on one aspect of their practice. They might meet at the British Library – ‘for the learning environment’ – before nipping off for a well-earned glass of wine.

While I was a headteacher I used to pop into my office during the holidays and get some decent time to myself. I enjoyed the peace, to be honest. During term time there is so rarely any time to think.  I know the pundits say that we need to try and lead a more balanced life by incorporating thinking and reflection time into the working week, but that is SO difficult to achieve.

The danger by not doing this, however, is that you leave all your thinking and reading time to the holidays, when your brain desperately wants to switch off to the point that it can’t cope with anything more intellectual than watching an episode of Orphan Black. Once I understood this, I worked at a much more leisurely pace and made sure I didn’t aim to do more than a few things each day I went in during the holidays.

Whatever you choose to do this holiday, we all wish you a refreshing and enjoyable time. Don’t forget to come to us if we can do anything to inform your thinking or promote your reflection. We are delighted to support you.

Comments 1

  1. Mark Chapman 22nd July 2016

    I will be working in the school!! Not all of school staff get a Summer break!

Leave a Reply