Tips for meaningful idling

010520141611From September till the end of June, I lead a relatively busy life. Most workdays are the same; I get up at 6:30, make breakfast, drive my little son to school, teach several lessons in the morning, do some paperwork in my downtime, do the boring grocery shopping in the afternoon, take my son to the playground if the weather permits, correct essays and get things ready for the following day’s lessons, make something for dinner, read a bedtime story to my son, grab a book myself to read a few pages, and before I even realize it, it’s late at night and can’t keep my eyes open anymore.

On June 1, everything changes abruptly and dramatically. First of all, I don’t have to do many of the things mentioned above anymore. More importantly, I suddenly have lots of free time on my hands. This is fantastic, but it can be dangerous too. You can easily get bored or uneasy because, let’s face it, we teachers are workaholics. Alternatively, you can turn into a lazy monster constantly loafing around. That’s why I’ve decided to plan how I’ll spend my holiday time this year. I’m not talking about the traditional way people plan holidays – I’d just like to consider all the options I have. Although I principally wish to idle, and I undoubtedly deserve a long rest, I also want to spend my time actively and productively. So, what on earth can an English teacher (a workaholic like me) do during such a long vacation?

In summer, I could obviously teach some 1-2-1 lessons. However, I want to be available to my family all the time, plus I really want to take a breather. I could write more, but the problem is that as I’ve stopped working, the issues I usually deal with here on my blog throughout the school year are suddenly not pressing enough to make me want to write about them. Thus, I’m forced to look for other topics to write about, and this activity is challenging enough to keep me mentally occupied for some time.

The best thing about holidays is that I can suddenly read all the stuff I didn’t have time for during the school year. At the moment, there are two books waiting on my bedside table – Still Alice and Escape from Camp 14. To kill two birds with one stone, I decided to get the English versions. Thus, I can enjoy some great stories while keeping my English up.

Just on a whim, I made a commitment to learn 10 new English words/phrases/collocations/idioms a day. When I’m on my laptop, I have a notebook permanently at my disposal and I consistently record new language items as I come across them. However, unless I use them, in writing, for example, most of those items end up forgotten for good. By the way, as a lifelong L2 learner, I can fully attest to the assertion that such notebooks are, in fact, word cemeteries. That’s why I’d like to consistently work on those ten items each day. This will be easier now that my brain is fresh and my nerves cells relaxed.

Now that I’m reading more diverse books and articles, I’m coming across more diverse vocabulary. An idea which I really liked and which I’d like to test over the holidays is the idea of a Homemade Dictionary (Naomi Epstein shared it here). The trick is that each page of a vocabulary notebook has a designated letter. I’ve never introduced this idea in class, but I think it may be worth a try. In the worst-case scenario, I’ll produce another, alphabetical word cemetery.

What else can restless ELTs do? They can take photos and join the #Eltpics or the MULL group, and/or they can create a photo bank that will definitely come in handy once they start teaching again.

Most of us will travel a bit. Why not collect realia (objects drawn from real life that are used in classroom instruction) that have had some meaning to us and plan ways of using them in the classroom (this post best illustrates what I mean). 

Also, as we are not restricted by our busy schedules, we have more opportunities to think about stuff we don’t normally ponder, and we undoubtedly look at things from a slightly different perspective. In addition, we have more time to read and watch the news. Why not create a bank of hot issues and burning questions for our future speaking classes? If you take down two or three questions a day, you’ll end up with a wonderful resource, which will come in handy in September when you are usually too busy to try to remember what happened two months ago. Your students can later add their own issues and questions.

My first question would be:

Would you prefer to be a teacher and enjoy a two-month-holiday each year or a top manager who works 24/7? 🙂

Happy holidays!

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About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for more than 20 years. I love metaphors and inspiring discussions concerning teaching, learning and linguistics.
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One Response to Tips for meaningful idling

  1. Sandy Millin says:

    Nice idea to plan your holiday Hana. How about watching the odd webinar or reading something Elt Related? That could provide fuel for the blog too? The IH TOC webinars are great because most of them are only 10 minutes.
    But you should also relax and enjoy the time with your son – you work so hard throughout the year!
    Have a good holiday 🙂
    Sandy

    Liked by 1 person

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