The school term doesn’t finish until lunchtime on Wednesday, but teacher training finished on Thursday, 11th July. At a farewell gathering at 2.30 pm that day, identity badges and laptops had to be handed in. The next day there was an overwhelming sense of tiredness, I slept for twelve hours in twenty-four.
Joining a school visit to Flanders and France last week, I talked to a colleague about the feeling of exhaustion. “Welcome to teaching,” she replied, “it will happen every year.”
Somewhere, I used to have a photograph of myself in tee shirt and shorts, sat on a Mediterranean beach, with a beach towel wrapped around me like a shawl. Despite the French August heat, I remember feeling cold and tired. Holiday colds were a frequent experience, it was as though bacteria, or germs, or viruses, or whatever they are, were waiting in ambush, as though a moment of relaxation meant lowering physiological defences and succumbing to an attack.
Probably due to waking up at 6.30 am French time in Lille each morning of the school trip, so as to be able to knock on student doors at seven o’clock and tell them it is time to stir, but my body clock has not changed. Generally waking before the alarm went at half past five each school day, I still awake and look at the clock at around 5.25.
I have a pile of TES magazines around two months high. The dates on the covers are not that important, the news is usually similar: budget pressures; staffs shortages; the absurdity of SATS; the iniquity of an education system that assesses teachers on the basis of GCSE results, as if there were nothing else in education that mattered (are GPs in poor communities paid on the basis of the health of their patients?). Reports on research findings and reflective essay pieces present ideas that are original and challenging.
Dreams are still filled with imaginary classroom moments. Standing looking at PowerPoint slides that were meant to have been about countries that have won the football World Cup, and being in a classroom and realising that I have included no details of the countries, brings a waking awareness of the sense of vulnerability felt in teaching geography as a non-specialist teacher.
Perhaps there comes a point in the holidays where sleep returns to normal and where sub-conscious anxieties disappear. Hopefully, the experience of one teacher in a Belfast grammar school whom I knew will be avoided – in mid-August, he would become depressed that a new school year was about to start.