Why can’t I turn off?

People always talk about teaching being a vocation, but I don’t think I ever really understood what that really meant until this summer holiday.

No matter what the government, pupils or the general public think we use the summer hols for, we all know that it’s vital time to recharge overly depleted batteries and get ourselves ready for new schemes of work; syllabuses; classes and problems. Yet why during a summer when I really need to be recharged and refreshed ready to start a new year at an academy I’ve recently started working in, do I find myself thinking about schools, old and new, more than I ever have done before?

A lot happened before the blessed day in July appeared in front of me that made me long for the summer recharge more that I think I ever had:

  • My parents had their offer accepted on their new house abroad,
  • My very first head of department passed away unexpectedly,
  • When returning to my previous school to support their summer cabaret of the year 9s I left behind begged me to come back and teach the class as it was “worse than before you started teaching us”
  • I was told that 2 members of the tutor group I’d just left were going off the rails as they approached the vital Year 11 and might I be able to find a free afternoon to have a word with them as no one else has been successful,
  • And the familiar nagging thoughts of self-doubt snuck back in as I looked at my growing To Do list for September and I began to doubt whether I’d survive to the summer holidays, let alone make it through the first term.

But I made it to the last day and knocked off a lot of my To Do list on the final two days and my two trips in to the school.

Yet, I have not been able to switch off… Why is this?

Even as I write this, I am sat in Portugal in my parents’ new house having just checked iSAMs and my work emails, not for the first time might I add. So far, while I should have been enjoying near 3 weeks in gorgeous countryside and beautiful sunshine I have checked A Level results; sent a few work emails; checked and edited a scheme of work; and sneakily checked out the GCSE results of the two Y11 classes I left behind.

I’m beginning to find that I can’t relax properly until I know work is all settled and sorted. But I’m always finding something that I need to fix, attend to or work on. I find some comfort in knowing that others, like my head of department @fod3, will be doing much the same as me. But does that make it OK?

I love my job. I love working with the students and helping them understand and master something they previously ‘knew’ to be impossible. I know that I was meant to be a teacher, but I don’t want to be just a teacher – I want my life. But that gets invaded by work more often that I would like. I know I can check work emails on my iPhone, although I initially vowed I never would it has become something that sneaks into my life. The news often talks about how teachers are failing students in one way or another (which just builds to make me feel guilty that I may not be doing enough and somehow this will cause a student to miss out on the all important C at English and their life and future will be ruined because of me); how exams are getting easier, not teachers getting better and students working harder; how results are dropping because I’m not good enough at what I do; how I have too much free / holiday time. And beyond that whenever people find out that I teach in a secondary school teaching is all they want to talk about. It all conspires against me in a vicious cycle making me feel too tired to be the teacher I want to be who teaches the lessons that I know I have inside me which only serves to make me feel guiltier about work, making me spend more of my own time working / thinking about work. Grr…

How am I supposed to get away from work and turn off to enjoy some of my long holidays before they get taken away from me?

It’s hard to admit it, but the enemy here isn’t work or Gove (although many teachers will disagree) it’s me. I don’t have to check work emails, I don’t have to know A Level results at 6:50am while on holiday, I don’t have to work until past a reasonable hour. I love the vocational side of me that chose teaching, but that’s not all I am. From now on, I will embrace the selfish side of me too. I will rest, I will enjoy time with my husband and my friends. I will find time to sit and breath for a moment or two.

And I will start now: I have 4 days left before I have to leave Portugal and say goodbye to my parents and I will not open a work email or check Twitter until I get back to Blighty.

I know that this selfish side will lose the battle once September starts, but maybe, just maybe I can let her win once in a while so I keep loving teaching and feeling like I am pretty good at it too.