The Final Comedown: Nothing prepares me for the end of term

I’ve looted and I’ve begged
On the tubes of the Bec and Broadway
I’ve been run over by cars
And to prove it here’s the scars
On my wrists
I’ve been cut
I’ve been stitched
I’ve been buggered, bewitched and abandoned

But nothing in Heaven or Earth
Prepared me for this
The Final Comedown

It’s a victory worth sharing
We should celebrate I think
With the bloodiest of Marys
But I’m too ****ed to drink.

Okay, so Carter U.S.M. were hardly poets, but I’ve found a bit of solace in these words lolloping around my brain today.

But why do I need solace? Yesterday was the end of term and today is the first day of the holidays. As the longest period of respite stretches itself out lazily in front of me, surely this is the feast day for teachers; a carnival of recreation; edu-Saturnalia?

So why am I not frolicking in Bacchanalian debauchery right now? Why am I not gambolling on a sawdust-covered table, spilling wine from my brass goblet?

Because I’m in a funk. I’m in the funk I’m always in at this point of the year. I’m not sure if it is something that affects everyone. But if it does, then there is so much excited build-up to the end of term that nobody really talks about it. It doesn’t matter how hard the year has been, or how ready I am for the break, nothing in Heaven or Earth prepares me for this: The Final Comedown.

Don’t get me wrong. I need a break. I couldn’t cope without it. This has been a particularly tough year and so the summer holiday is more needed than ever. It’s just that the sudden loss of purpose is like the moment when Wile E. Coyote runs out of ground and goes plummeting into the canyon: it’s a shock. And it’s one that leaves me with a numb and hollow feeling for a couple of days.

Is it the suddenness of it? Is it the fact that teaching over-occupies me for most of the year and thus nothing can really ever replace it or fill the void of its purpose? The summer break isn’t so much a blank canvas, rather it’s a palimpsest of term time. It takes a short while to scrape off what is already on the page before you can fill it with something new.

And it is just a short while too. I know from experience that the comedown passes after a day or two. And at that point, I couldn’t be happier to be on a break. But in these early days, it’s like being in limbo.

This funk can be harder if you have the added sorrow of saying goodbye to colleagues who are dear to you and who are off to pastures new. This year I have said goodbye to friends who I have grown very fond of and who are crossing the globe in search of new horizons. We’ve all experienced this kind of loss and know that it creates an even greater vacuum to try and fill.

But I’m really not complaining about having five and a half weeks off school. It is absolutely necessary and will mean that I can teach with renewed vigour in September. And it honestly does feel like an achievement to get to the end of another academic year. It really is a victory worth sharing. We certainly should celebrate, I think, with the bloodiest of Marys. But – right now, just for a couple of days – I’m too ****ed to drink.

7 thoughts on “The Final Comedown: Nothing prepares me for the end of term”

  1. I’ve always struggled with the holidays. I’ve finally decided that I actually need to work quite a lot through the summer. I need that sense of purpose, and get fed up without it. Expect some knowledge organisers to appear before September!

    1. Make sure you take a bit of time for yourself. Time away from it all does make us better teachers, I tend to think. But looking forward to the knowledge organisers though…

  2. We have something we call teachers weekend in our house where we plan to do s*d all for the first weekend off from school. We curl up on sofas, reading, eating rubbish, drinking rubbish, snoozing and watching rubbish tv till we have got over it. The alternative is to go straight on holiday the day after breaking up, but if we do that we reschedule the teachers weekend for when we get back. I reckon it’s a way to readjust the adrenaline levels back to ‘sane’ after many months of insanity.

  3. Thanks for writing this James, I really identify with this feeling. I’ve always found it strange how people can merrily disappear at midday or book a holiday straight away at the end of term. I always need some time to wind down and usually spend a couple of hours alone in my classroom, music on, tidying up, having a good chuck out and reading my thank you cards. I think it’s the feeling of sudden redundancy that strikes you, having been ‘in service’ all year. Suddenly, no-one needs you. It’s comparable to the feeling I get when my children go for a sleepover: I look forward to the peace and quiet, then when they aren’t there I walk into their rooms and out again, restless and unable to relax. The end of summer term is always a shadow of that feeling for me: it’s a sense of loss and loneliness. Bouncing straight into the kids’ summer holidays solves it in one way, but equally there is little respite or chance for reflection…

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