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Holiday lessons

By Tim Middleton

We offer a very warm welcome to everyone as we come together to celebrate this holy day, these very special holidays. Our holidays are truly holy days and are so meant to be.

So, let us begin our time of celebration by singing together the well-known words of the old chorus (slightly amended): “These are the holidays, these are the holidays that the ministry has made, that the ministry has made; we will rejoice, we will rejoice and be glad in them, and be glad in them. These are the holidays that the ministry has made; we will rejoice and be glad in them; these are the holidays, these are the holidays that the ministry has made.”

Our first lesson comes from the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education calendar, chapter 2020 which states that there will be 32 days of Vacation (holidays) after Term 1, 31 days of holidays after Term 2 and 39 days of holidays after Term 3 in 2020 (making a total of 102 holidays). The same passage reads that there will be 57 school days in Term 1, 67 school days in Term 2 and 63 school days in term 3 (thus totalling 187 school days).

So let us give thanks for these holidays. They are important, significant, valuable, helpful times. They are created; they are commanded. They have been set apart as being special; their purpose is to uplift the children, teachers and parents alike; their object is to inspire us to renewed efforts and service. They are decreed as a break from the regular routine of hurried activity and busy study, to enable all to focus on what is in fact of greater importance. Holidays are holy days; they allow an opportunity for everyone to come together from their staggered and insular lives to enjoy and benefit from the company of others, near and far. Yes, we give thanks for our holidays.

Then let us come to the message from today’s reading and learn two particular lessons. The first lesson about holidays is that there should not be holiday lessons; holidays are holy days and should be kept as holidays. We need them, our children need them and our children need us to share such holy days with them. We have a responsibility to make them special, unique, sacred and different days, and therefore should not be filling them with pre-term tours, post-season festivals, all-year cramming, last-minute revising, exam-swotting tutorials. They are meant to be for rest; the ministry have declared that there is enough time in the term-time for work to be covered appropriately and we must honour such commitment and directive, even if we think some extra benefit might be gained from such desperate measures.

The same is equally true for teachers who need the time to regain energy following long working hours and weeks, to reflect on their practice and progress, to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead, to re-establish personal space, to review individual performances, to restore beliefs and understanding in the soul-destroying task of building others up. These are not idle, wasted days for teachers; they are times when after working for some time and seeing that their work is good, they rest a while and enjoy what has been created around them.

In short we need to teach people how to rest and relax. We need people to learn how to rest as it is a lost art in the busy world of science and technology and employment. We need to understand afresh how recreation is intended as re-creation, how our creative juices can and must be stimulated by time engaged in other activities, pursuits and passions. A change is a breath of fresh air; a break in routine is a surge of new blood.

In summary, holidays are meant to be holy days; keep them holy. Keep them special, refreshing, inspiring, uplifting, personal, relational, honouring. Set them apart so that relationships can be further nurtured and developed. Fill them with positive yet peaceful rest.

So, let us finish with a benediction as we close on this sacred topic: Teach us to number our days aright lest we be found wanting. May our holidays be filled with rest, recreation, restoration, renewal and relaxation.

 Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS.

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