Today when I was at the checkout in M and S (I know, I know, get me, I’m such a big shot etc – I was only getting a Dine In For £10 meal-deal jobby ok?! I’m still a Tescos girl at heart) I was asked what I do for a living (this wasn’t a random question – I’d done my usual of making friends with everyone in the shop just because I love a chat). I always hesitate before I answer this question, as I know for a fact what the response will be. Sure enough, it came:
Cashier: So, what do you do for a living?
Me:….I’m a teacher
Cashier: When do you break up? Lucky you with all those holidays!
You see?! What on earth do you respond to that?! ‘Erm yes I have a holiday coming up but on average I work a 60 hour week so actually over a year I don’t get any holidays at all?’ Not the best way to breeze over a comment from a stranger as you try to cram all your shopping into your handbag so you don’t have to pay for a carrier bag (I know it helps the environment but I cannot justify five whole pence to conveniently carry home a bottle of wine – my Northern roots won’t allow it). So I’ve decided to compare a very merry Christmas to a very teacher Christmas – and let all the skeptics know what teachers will be doing during our ‘holiday’.
The First Days
You’ve just finished work, you have a few days off – time to relax yes? Not for the teacher. We will be spending the first few days recovering from various colds, coughs and sore throats. But surely lots of people get ill this time of year? Oh absolutely, and I know lots of parents who have to not only dose up themselves with Lemsip (other cold remedies are available) but also have to look after equally suffering partners and children. What you need to remember is that teachers are exposed to around a million (to the nearest million) germs a day. We will be on our knees after being coughed on by little darlings for several weeks, and after working those 60 hour weeks, most teachers spend the first few precious days hibernating, propped up by cold remedies, cough medicine, tissues and chocolate.
Unfortunately, as teachers we can’t book a day off work to go Christmas shopping during quiet times. Imagine just being able to ring in and book an afternoon off, leaving 9j4 to their own devices…Impossible! So we unlucky bunch have to brave Christmas shopping on the weekend, fighting through the busy crowds, making tricky decisions about whether or not furry handcuffs are appropriate for a staff secret santa present (hint – they’re really not!) and trying to avoid bumping into students when buying knickers in Primark (‘What’s that you’ve got in your basket Miss?’). Just awful.
The Work Days
Christmas has been and gone, and we have entered the weary days of ‘Crimbo Limbo’ – there are still endless boxes of chocolate to eat, and the temptation is to give into lethargy and sit about watching festive TV stuffing ones face, vowing to go on a diet in January. Teachers however will start to feel the dread of returning to work unprepared, and will be using these days to mark and plan and remind themselves that in all too few days they will be going back to a world of few wees in a day and even less opportunities for a hot drink or a lie in. Sigh.
I’m sure teachers aren’t alone in feeling the effects of a cold, bleak, joyless January. People nationwide will be experiencing the long dark days, the fights with frost and snow to get to work, and above all the grumpy colleagues as everyone grows quickly fed up with their January diets and pledges of no drink (Banuary at its best.) Now imagine throwing equally grumpy teenage hormones into the mix, and the threat of upcoming exams when all our senses are begging us to hibernate and eat pie and gravy…Worst ever.
So there you have it – a very teacher Christmas. It is the best of times, it is the worst of times, but whatever the reality, I’ll let you in on a little secret: we still count down the days til our holiday starts! (5 get ups to go!) What’re your worst things about work around the Christmas period?