Photo – Museums Victoria
“As you grow older, you learn a few things. One of them is to actually take the time you’ve allotted for vacation.”
In the time of the 3-term year, the winter vacation was always very welcome. The coughs and sniffles of the staffroom, student absences and half-year reports crowded the rush toward the school gate and much needed holiday relief.
Most current teachers have only known the 4-term year, yet the same end of term pressures of a 3-term year are felt. Semester One reports, personal learning plan updates, and meetings, meetings, meetings, cloud the end of term calendar. It is no wonder that the time necessary for authentic collaborative planning, professional development and review of PDP goals is truncated by the start of the holiday. Rushed and leaving teachers breathless.
The 4-term year was introduced as part of a national plan to harmonize school terms. Simple maths tells us that the school year is 40 weeks and this equals to 10 per term. The reality is that each jurisdiction has spread the weeks of a term about to accommodate significant events such as the Sydney Olympics. A casual observer might note that 4-term school years has increased tourism and associated industries due to the overlap of school holiday periods.
The unwieldy mix of mandatory and administrative tasks combined with the implementation of new curriculum, consume the time allotted to professional learning, and so, such imposition leaves little time for practical, meaningful and effective professional learning. The question of how to measure professional growth is left unanswered.
The purpose of teacher professional learning is to help teachers ‘gain insight into the knowledge of their craft’ and is a requirement of teacher registration. It is hard to imagine how any teacher, or school leader, while managing the everyday challenges of school, accreditation requirements and professional learning, can find a healthy work/life balance.
The winter vacation is an opportunity for teachers and school leaders to reflect on the importance of self-care. The 2-week break can be packed with family and social commitments, and finding the time to plan for self-care can be hard. Identifying strategies that develop a healthy work/life balance ensures that teachers and school leaders can effectively manage the competing demands of working in schools and being productive, attentive and truly engaged in home life.