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Do Teachers Really Get 12 Weeks Holiday a Year?

By Jessica Terlick

Jessica Terlick is a presenter, life education coach, podcaster, and head of the Lead and Inspire community who has been in education for over a decade. Through her work with Lead and Inspire, workshops, speaking events, and podcast Mums Who Want More, she provides wellness support for women around the world. This story is a cross-post from her blog.

As teachers, we’ve all fielded the slightly aggressive comments about our “holidays” and a general feeling from others that we shouldn’t complain as we finish work at 3pm.

Yeah right. Did you just fall off your chair laughing?!

Well, pick yourself back up… and then sit down – we need to chat. Let’s take a look at that statement "Do teachers really get 12 weeks holiday a year?" and look at ways to improve teacher well-being as well as educate the general public about the reality of teacher-life.

The Highs and Lows of the School Year

Do these questions sound familiar?!

“Stop complaining about your job, you get 12 weeks off a year!”

“You get to rest in the holidays!”

“How can you complain about your workload?”

Let’s just state from the outset that yes, it is wonderful that as teachers, we can access 12-weeks leave per year and enjoy chunks of time away from school. If you have kids of your own, you can indulge in lots of family time with your kids, and you can go away for long periods of time if you wish (let’s not get started on the price hike of most holiday bookings during the school holidays)!

But what about the other side?

Many teachers will report working during the school holidays or simply being so exhausted from the term they don’t get to enjoy the time off. Many teachers I know (disclosure: I was the same!) will work during weekends, school holidays and after dinner.

As teachers are working on site at school somewhere around 7 - 8 hours per day, it’s the “time off” that actually allows for planning and reflection. There is no time during term to prepare work, to write reports, to evaluate, to programme and to continue ongoing professional development.

Why You Should Never Apologize for your Holiday Time

Have you ever reached the first day of the school holidays only to be hit by some spectacular flu-like illness? Yep – it would be funny if it wasn’t so ironic! Perhaps this phenomenon is just another sign that school holidays are necessary for the kids and teachers alike!

A UK study (City, University of London 2015) found that school holidays allowed teachers’ emotional energy resources and psychological health to be restored.

The research showed there are three ‘basic psychological needs’ teachers need to satisfy during the holidays to obtain higher levels of psychological health – a sense of competence, autonomy and feeling connected to other people.

Therefore, while some work might be inevitable during school holiday periods, these holidays must also be a time for self-care - and viewed as restorative time.

In the Lead & Inspire community we promote healthy practices. We firmly believe in the importance of creating systems that work, getting in touch with your body and mind, developing strategies to improve your organizational skills, and create daily rituals and habits.

After all, how can we as teachers of such precious young minds, be promoting and teaching wellbeing and positive practices if we are not walking the talk?

Avoid Teacher Burn Out – Be Kind to Yourself

Teachers, think about it this way: school holidays are a necessary perk. No one else apologizes for their work perks. Why should we?

Other workers enjoy multiple perks of the job and I am sure they do not feel bad about using them! From long lunches at fancy restaurants paid for by the employer or a client, to free fruit in the staff room, all jobs have their pros and cons. Teachers are no different and should not be made to feel “lucky” to get 12 weeks off a year, especially when we’ve already established that very few teachers will actually relax fully for the duration of each holiday.

We all know you can’t pour from an empty cup. Therefore, if you want to return in the new term feeling fresh, and ready to give the best to your students and colleagues, you need to take time in the school holidays to be kind to yourself.

Lead and Inspire Community

If you would like to know more about Jessica and the Lead and Inspire Community visit, subscribe to her weekly boosts of inspiration and get your ticket to her next event. Share this article on social media as a post or in your stories tagging @leadandinspirecommunity you never know who would benefit from it. Lead by example, look after yourself and share the inspiration.