30 October 2023

The Monday Briefing: Holiday

The Monday Briefing: Holiday

The half term holiday last week felt incredibly overdue when it finally came around.

My wife, my daughter and I had not managed to have a proper break since Easter and our Skiing trip to the Alps in France. Whilst the College ends its academic year at the end of June, giving an extra few weeks respite, this is counteracted by the need for my presence from the week leading up to A Level results day, where our recruitment period kicks into gear.

Many teachers call the first half term an ‘eight week slog.’ For me it has been eleven weeks to toil.

It has been draining in a number of ways - with expanding classrooms, teacher and student numbers: more issues to consume my thoughts; more potential problems; more plates to spin. Two parents evenings in the last week - in a College where relationships are more involving - almost pushed things to the limit.

I’ve always found it really difficult to switch off properly during holidays, but I’m getting better at this.

As a family, we enjoyed getting away to Rhodes for a week. The weather was superb, the accommodation and attached facilities were very pleasant, and the change of scenery enabled a departure from normality, at least in a physical sense.

There are measures which can be put in place: out of office messages applied to auto respond to incoming emails or perhaps even going ‘cold turkey’ on my mobile phone, but it’s inside my head where the respite never comes.

Work can seem miles away, but it’s always present.

One night in particular, I woke up in Greece abruptly then lay in bed for two hours or so contemplating upcoming issues I knew I’d have to deal with: considering how they might turn out; contemplating my options to bring about the best solutions for all involved; formulating plans to realise these goals.

It’s perhaps a measure of how far I’ve come as a leader that I can work through such things as quickly and to the satisfactory resolutions I can. This then allows me to move on to better things.

And what are those better things?

Family time most importantly. 

I was delighted to spend some quality time with my wife. Time to discuss future plans and reflect on how far we have come as a partnership so far.

I was delighted to see how my daughter’s confidence has grown in the swimming pool, amongst similarly aged girls and in trying new things. Just to see her happy, and basking in life is life affirming.

And individual time beyond that.

Time to get out and run - though it really was tricky to find a window where it was cool enough to get out for a viable exercise time. I was pleased to get out in the familiar rainy, muddy conditions of home on Sunday.

Time to read. I rarely feel as though I have time to read for pleasure during term time. With all of the policy checking, marking and preparatory reading I have to do, conducting my own journey into a book can often feel like something I simply don’t have time for. 

But this time that changed. 

I raced through ‘The Escape Artist’ by Jonathan Freedland - a tremendously engaging book about Auschwitz escapee Rudolf Vrba, then battled with the more dense ‘American Prometheus’ - the painstakingly detailed biography of J Robert Oppenheimer, penned by Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin.

It’s so important that time is given over to the fuel of my profession - learning, as in, my own learning.

I had somewhat of an epiphany on holiday as I saw children acting just like their parents, following their examples - whether for good or bad. For my own part, I started to consider just what sort of leader I am if I don’t consciously set aside time for my own betterment, exploring new areas and finding new interests.

My hope, as with the children who follow their parents, is that the students under my care follow my example.

I hope that they, and their parents, all had a restful, reflective and re-energising week.

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