As I’ve spent most of the summer packing up my house and moving, as well as saving money for various bits and bobs for said move, we didn’t actually get away abroad this year (I know, you can hear the violins, right?!). This summer though, simply reminded me of the ones of my youth, in NI, living in a family of 8, where you NEVER got to go abroad. Nope, no way, never. So, back then, 8 weeks of summer holidays was a very long time. Time spent laying in late, watching TV, playing around outside, just doing what you could in the manner of trying to entertain yourself. We must have driven my mother mad……..Don’t get me wrong, I had a great childhood, the beauty of having 5 siblings is there’s always someone to play with (or wind up!) and we did go on day trips sometimes (oh, the days of cramming lots of kids into a car without enough seatbelts for everyone!) and we lived in lovely countryside where you’d go off exploring, or on your bicycle and you’d usually end up finding some kittens (don’t ask!). My parents did their best for us all and I have never felt that I “missed out” on anything simply because I didn’t get to go abroad.
Anyways, my point was, I hated those long summers. I loved seeing the “back-to-school” adverts on the TV, as I counted down the days to getting back to school, to seeing my friends, to having a purpose again, to just simply be doing “something”. What I used to dread though, was the inevitable 1st day “tasks” set by teachers, to write/discuss where we went during the holidays, or “icebreaker- talk to the person beside you about what you did during the summer”, or even “Human bingo: Find someone who went to Mexico, went to Spain” etc etc. I dunno why they bothered anyways, it was always obvious who had been away, the tans made that pretty clear, but each year I’d think to myself “English teacher/Form teacher (whoever!), I told you last year, we didn’t go anywhere!! Grrrrr” and I’d end up making something up, just to not feel like a leper. I couldn’t even escape it in French; “Qu’est-ce que tu as fait pendant les grandes vacances?” Argh! Unfortunately, kids being kids, there’d be some sniggers from some who’d be like “what do you mean you didn’t go on holiday? Are you poor?”
Anyways, I made a pact with myself that I’d never put any of my students in that awkward position, because we don’t always know what our students’ home lives are like. We do know, that for some students, school is a sanctuary, a crucial routine in their lives and there are students who can’t wait to be back. Perhaps, like I was, they’re tired of being the “on-call” babysitters and want to do something for themselves. Who knows? But let’s not make them feel worse by putting them on the spot to talk about something that has been and gone by the time you ask. The ones who do want to volunteer where they went and what they did, will always find a way. The others? Just move on. They’ll appreciate that. Believe me.