Teachers and their summer holidays…

I recently met again with one of my mentees, an NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher), and we spent time talking about her past academic year, the imminent summer holidays and her year ahead. In particular her reflections on the tensions between family, friends and taking time off, versus preparations for the coming year resonated with me and I spent some time considering this.

I found it useful to interpret my thoughts and her reflections using fabric, words and symbols…just as I had done after our first mentoring session. It seemed appropriate to do this again after our last session of the academic year…

My textile here says something about my mentee’s feelings about ‘stitching up’ the past year and folding up her anxieties…about acknowledging what her triumphs have been and the hard mountains she has had to climb in her year as an NQT. This is reflected in the folded blue fabric and the words attached.

Equally, the white fabric represents the year ahead, starting in the autumn – hence the use of autumn coloured buttons! This part of the fabric is unfolding and incorporates her thoughts and feelings about the things she will do, will remember, what she has learnt…and may do better.

The golden threads and ‘pearls of wisdom’ running across the textile are symbolic of those wisdoms learnt, to be reflected upon and to take into the future.

But it is the period of time in-between that interested me (the orange/gold fabric). The summer holidays for teachers last around six weeks and so often I heard people say to my Mother, a teacher herself (now retired), “…you teachers have so much time off!” or “…you lot get such long holidays!”. But of course, this was never the case and is a somewhat mis-guided view of teachers and their summer holidays…

Now, as a teacher myself, I recognise that this is a time to ease off but a time to question experiences and prepare for the next year – the last term seems to so easily merge into the next! My mentee’s reflections highlighted these tensions and drew attention to this period in-between. In particular, for her, it appears to be a period of liminality – moving from a ‘first year teacher’ to someone who might be expected to ‘know more’ and who is no longer ‘new’! It’s a time for her, she says, to be free to think, feel, rest, regain a sense of enthusiasm and look in the mirror. It’s also a time for her to set things in motion for next year, prepare her classroom, worry and make decisions.

Teachers and their summer holidays: a space for freedom and constraint, departure and arrival, joy and apprehension.

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