The following article comes from primary school teacher Karl McGrath, who shares his plans for unwinding this half-term.

I was thinking about all the things I could recommend or the mindfulness/wellness activities you could do to switch off, then realised. If I read a list recommending wellness activities It wouldn’t benefit me. However, what would be, If I read about how others spent their half-term or weekends then that would interest me. I am going to imagine my perfect half term! Day by day (sort of) maybe there’s something in there that you might want to do, heck you could even tweet me @MRMICT on the day and we can share that activity, which is one of the incredible advantages of social media at times like these, to forge connections.

Friday Evening

So you may call me sad but I love a Friday evening. Ever since I was young, it was one of the best days of the week. The shackles of the alarm clock can be released, and you are free to get up the next day when you choose unless like me, you have young children. When I was younger, my mum and I would walk to Xtravision (the Irish equivalent to Blockbuster), grab some treats and a Chinese takeaway. To this day that pattern still exists, albeit in a different form. My wife and I will grab treats, possibly get a takeaway and watch Corrie and Gogglebox. Then we’ll move onto Netflix; there may even be a whiskey or gin involved.


Some of you may be lucky enough to gain a lie-in, however, as mentioned my two young children prevent that. Don’t worry though I’ll be making up for the lost time when they’ve moved out. Usually, on a Saturday I indulge in a cooked breakfast. I like to make my own; I know some people like to go out for brunch, which I have been known to do, but I’m a fan of taking the time to cook my own. Usually, it’s either a vegetarian variant of the Ulster Fry, potato and soda farls are a must. Once we are fed and watered my wife and I will take the kids to the park via the local coffee shop. If you are childless, this is the perfect opportunity for an autumnal walk with a coffee. Usually, we would go out for lunch, but we’re being relatively cautious so will pick up a nice soup and bread. In the evening I usually indulge again to make a full family dinner; this might be a curry or a pie, either way, taking the time helps me switch off.


Sunday, as far as days go, is an oxymoron as far as I’m concerned. It is both the best day and the worst. Why? Simply because you can enjoy yourself and it is the day before you go back to work… not this Sunday, though! I love a Sunday, when I was younger it was epically docile. We would wake up early because we had to go to Mass but then as my Granny made Sunday dinner we went swimming. Now I won’t be going swimming, but I love to draw and on Sunday I usually unwind with a little sketch session. My two year old will often join in, and it tends to descend into me drawing characters from Peppa Pig, but I love this unplugged time. 

Now I know this is only 3 days but my half term usually repeats this parent. Here are my takeaways. Firstly, do not under any circumstances take any books or school work home. It will do nothing more than haunt you like the ghost of Jacob Marley. The same is true for emails. If you haven’t got access to work emails from home, you’re winning. If you do have access, DO NOT look. Good management won’t be sending you emails anyway. My rule is I look at emails before I go home and first thing in the morning when I return to work, just to prepare. 

Secondly, eat, eat and eat some more. I’m not advocating an unhealthy lifestyle and maybe it’s because my granny was a feeder, but food for me conjures warm and comforting memories. I love to take the breaks off and indulge a little over half term. I might have a cake, three or four days that week. I might have deliciously cheesy pasta dishes. Whatever you love, eat it guilt-free.

Finally, the key to unwinding is simple, and I know people can find it difficult for a multitude of reasons but your health and wellbeing, you must. Switch off your phone one day, naturally, you might want to text loved ones to let them know you’re having a zero contact day. Every Sunday in my first year at university I would lock my door; binge-watch box sets; switch my phone off and emerge for food only. It was bliss. You could go for a long coastal, wooded or riverside walk. You could take the time to start a new hobby: painting, drawing, pottery it doesn’t matter. What matters most is that you pause, after what will undoubtedly have been the hardest half term you’ve ever had. After all, you could be an NQT; you could have had rolling absences. Add this into normal teaching, and this is a huge amount to contend with. You’ve earned it.


Karl McGrath

Karl has worked in education for over 7 years. He started as a Learning & Equalities Mentor where he used his passion for computing and film production degree to help children, who would ordinarily struggle to access the winder curriculum, produce films and animations about a range of topics, from Egyptians topics to natural disasters.

After completing his PGCE he began teaching in Year 5 in a three-form entry teaching school in Newcastle upon Tyne. He is currently lead on computing and runs a CAS community of practice. Karl has also delivered workshops for NQTs, student teachers and experienced teachers alike. Most recently he delivered a workshop at the #CASVirtual20 virtual conference.

Karl is incredibly passionate about how technology can be used to inspire the next generation and he believes that everything a teacher does should be rooted in the most relevant educational research.

Follow Karl on Twitter – @MRMICT.

Visit Karl’s ‘Pedabytes’ blog here.

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