Three holiday seasons every year with a two-month-package starting November or May has always been a point of envy, even a jealous contention at times, among our non-teaching colleagues. In all fairness, teachers enjoy school breaks, half terms and other general holidays that others enjoy: don’t doctors, accountants, lawyers and other professionals deserve equal luxury?
Whether or not people deserve a holiday is not debatable because we all deserve a rest. The conflict, however, is on whether teachers’ holidays are longer than necessary. While being a teacher makes my interest in this issue rather conflicted, even biased, it seems reasonable for teachers not to stay at school staring at desks or teaching shadows when learners are at home. Compare this to people not falling sick for some time so doctors can rest, or people not banking for a while so accountants would have nothing to do. Now to your concern; are these empty desks empty for too long? Do we need to be off for two months? Could teachers simply be enjoying unnecessarily long holidays?
Subjectivity aside, learning is a process controlled by the human brain, which as we all know, is not controlled mechanically. Once the brain has had enough and is tired, continued school routines yield nothing; instead, they cripple creativity and disfigure mental images that are salient in creating memories. With substantial downtime, the brain— like a muscle— is refreshed and energised. While it might be argued that other professionals also use their brains and equally need a recess, teachers work with learners who cannot go all year round non-stop. In fact, whoever is against the long holidays for teachers goes against the grains of science and the logistics of brain function.
Secondly, unlike other professions, teaching is not confined to the fence of a school. You will agree with me that teachers usually work overtime— unpaid by the way— always needing to grade this and prepare that. Lest I am misunderstood, the long holidays are not a compensation for the long unpaid hours educators put in, it wouldn’t suffice even remotely; the point here is that the holidays are more than deserved. What most people fail to realise is that teaching is not work; it is performance. Even seasoned actors break down backstage after trying out a scene multiple times, much more for teachers whose performance is scrutinised by the second. After a very rigorous school year, a teacher may slump into a complete shutdown— even become sickly the first few days of holiday. Without the holidays, teachers would be both physically and mentally crippled.
Finally, many teachers usually use the time for in-service training or any other professional development courses. Some teachers even stay in schools planning for the following term and updating and organising their files as well as doing other school-related tasks. I would argue that after teaching 40 lessons per week for three months, any primary teacher would need to rest, but no, they are busy grading the national exams, preparing rubrics for the holiday tasks and getting ready for a new term. It is a vicious cycle of endless toil—most of which is internally rewarding. So the next time you talk about ‘long’, you may need to provide a description of the word.
Conclusively, we all deserve a break, long or short. Considering that teaching is performance and requires a well-rested brain, the holidays— teachers presumably enjoy— are inevitable. In fact, teachers, who for some reasons do not take the holidays seriously, end up experiencing a high level of burn-out.