Friends who are not teachers often comment that the best part of my job must be the holidays. Surely, the holidays are the best part of anyone’s job, but teachers are often pinpointed as having amazing holidays compared with those in other professions.
As someone who has just reached the end of a two-week holiday, I would have to say that I spent a lot of my break stressing about the term ahead and slowly working my way through a monumental pile of marking that accompanied me home on the last day of term. When I say slowly working my way through a pile of marking, I mean, of course, spending the last weekend before school returns frantically powering through a ridiculous amount of school work and ruining any positive effects of relaxation I may have accumulated in the previous two weeks.
This way of operating seems to be consistent among my teacher friends, even though it’s completely out of line with any advice we give to our students (“Don’t leave your holiday homework until the last minute, guys. Make sure you get onto it straight away and then enjoy the rest of your time off.”)
It also flies in the face of any intentions we start our holidays with ("I’ll get my marking out of the way in the first few days and that way I can enjoy the break"). I don’t know why it works this way but it’s almost like there’s an extended hangover period at the end of a term and you physically/mentally can’t cope with the notion of looking at anything school related until there is really no option left. That’s when my adrenaline kicks in and I work myself up into a complete state about the grand return to school and lock myself in the study with “the pile”.
Our principal always sends out a welcome-back email the night before term starts. If I haven’t managed to reach a full-blown panic by the time it hits my inbox, I can guarantee that a strong sense of nausea will kick in the moment I start to read it — not because it’s horrible or filled with doom, it’s just that I can no longer pretend that I am on holidays or that my return to work is just a vague notion in my head.
It’s actually happening and it’s happening in the next 24 hours. This is always guaranteed to make the pile look completely insurmountable. That’s when it becomes essential to prioritise, only mark assignments/essays/posters/PowerPoint presentations handed in on USBs that you are amazed you haven’t misplaced.
Leave the rest for the first night back when you’ll be too tired to remember. Or else you can always say you forgot to bring them in and give your students the same leeway with their holiday homework. After all, a holiday is supposed to be a holiday, even if we do have more than most.
Christina Adams is a member of the Australian Education Union (Victoria) and a stand-up comedian