The truth about school holidays

If you’re a teacher, you would have heard from many people… probably many times… every time you voice a difficulty of your job, the comeback “oh, but all those holidaysssss!”

Well, those people; they’re wrong but they’re also right.

Here are some holidays myths:

1. That holidays are for teachers. Although teachers benefit from the break (because, let’s face it, teaching is a mentally and physically exhausting career) holidays are, in fact, for students. They need to recoup and recover. They need to decompress at the end of a grade and prepare themselves for the next one. Everyone who studies, regardless of their age, needs to give their brain time to process and assimilate new information.

2. That teachers get paid for doing nothing. There are two errors in this way of thinking. Firstly, that teachers are doing nothing. Because, honesty, you can take teachers out of the school, but good luck taking school out of the teachers! When they travel, they’re collecting stickers and other souvenirs for their classes. When they’re at home, they’re laminating and cutting and sourcing resources for their classrooms. They’re gathering inspiration from all around them to inject creativity into their lessons. And when they’re not doing any of that, they’re practising self care so that they can be a better teacher when they’re back at school. And even though all of this should be enough to justify their continued paycheck, they’re actually just receiving the salary that they decided to forego throughout the schooling semesters so that they can afford to take care of their families during the break like the rest of the workforce.

3. That teachers get three times more annual leave than the rest of the world. What most people don’t realise is that a teacher’s income is based on a 25 hour working week. But teachers put in so much overtime doing playground duty, attending committee meetings and parent-teacher interviews, marking and grading, writing report cards, lesson planning, resource-creating and photocopying, dealing with student behaviour, replying to emails, going to the toilet and hurriedly smashing down our lunch (and the list goes on), that this notion is actually laughable. So, really, holidays are just teachers cashing in their accumulated flexi leave. Except that they don’t get to choose when they take it. They have to take it when it is mandated- which means expensive airfares, booked-out accommodation, kids all swarming the shopping malls… in other words, we might not see them in the classroom, but we’re likely to still run into them somewhere!

And here are some holiday truths:

1. Although teachers deserve good working conditions, often we are expected to settle for, (and we do!) LESS because “it’s what’s best for the kids”. Rightly or wrongly, being a teacher requires an element of sacrifice. Part of this sacrifice is less time and energy for your loved ones because you’ve given your all to the children at school. Being a candle that consumes itself to light the way for others. Another sacrifice is your ability to have your professional knowledge and experience respected, consulted and appreciated. Anyone who’s ever been in a classroom thinks they know what it’s like to be a teacher. And everyone thinks they have the right to provide commentary on schooling and education because it’s a big political issue and it affects so many. So teachers need to swallow their pride, resist the urge to correct the ignorant and the downright erroneous, and accept that people will mention the holidays. You learn to smile and laugh it off.

2. Teachers will burnout if they don’t make the most of any downtime they can grab. Many, many young educators leave the profession for a variety of reasons. One of the most prominent is burnout. Whether it’s because of unrealistic expectations regarding the reality of teaching (thanks to movies, tv shows and society at large), lack of proper training from universities or insufficient support from schools themselves, new teachers, in particular, are not lasting long. And especially during a global pandemic, now more than ever we need teachers to prioritise their health and to take care of themselves.

3. Teachers are role models with responsibility. During the week, children spend more hours influenced by their teachers than they do by their parents. And on top of this, teachers are responsible for teaching every child in every classroom the Australian National Curriculum. Would you want these people, who have so much power over today’s young ones, to be performing only at half capacity? Well that’s what would happen if you took away school holidays. They’d be less patient, more irritable, less creative and more disenchanted. They’d be walking zombies. Is that really what we want for our kids?

So… yes, there’s a few weeks of holidays.

And yes, teachers deserve every single minute of them.


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