Every year, I book myself a week at Champneys Springs Health Spa in Leicestershire. It takes 51 weeks to save up the money to pay for it, and about three weeks of the first half term back at school to need it. I crawl towards the middle of July, safe in the knowledge that I can spend a week relaxing, being pampered and eating food that is good for me so that I am restored, and revitalised enough to continue on with the job come September.
You might think it’s strange to want to spend a week of hard-earned holiday time cooped up in an English spa resort, where the chances are it will be blowing a gale and pelting it down with July rain, but I don’t go there for sun, sea or sand. I go there purely to recharge the batteries drained from weeks of bureaucratic admin, behaviour management policy enforcement, formative and summative assessment tracking, and all the million and one things other than teaching that teachers do these days. Champneys is the one place I know where I can slob out for a week in a dressing gown, not do my hair, fall asleep whenever I like and feel permanently clean from all the showers taken after spending time in the sauna, steam room and spa pool. It’s like a week-long hug.
It takes me a while to get there. I have to fly to England, get a train to the Midlands, then a taxi to the resort, but as soon as I start crossing the little bridge over the pond outside its doors, I can feel my shoulders dropping a little bit of their accumulated tension. The calming atmosphere hits as soon as you’re inside – and the familiar smell of lotions and massage oils perfumes the air. I’m enveloped in tranquility immediately.
You can go for a short break – two or three nights – but the traditional week is the ultimate, feel-good pamper-fest, and in my opinion, it’s the best value. Included in the traditional week package are 10 treatments, all meals, full use of the facilities, and a decent room to boot. Sometimes, a chum will come for a day visit, or an overnighter, but generally, I go alone. After 3 terms of chattering, squabbling, often-vicious teenagers, I’m ready for a bit of peace and quiet, with time to read the books that have been piling up throughout the school year. Time to take a breather and take stock.
It’s the best thing I can do for myself. Teaching is demanding, stressful and time-consuming, but a week at Champneys gives me the space I need to remember how rewarding it can be. At the end of a week at Champneys, I feel ready to take on the world again…or at least, ready to spend the remaining 5 weeks planning the next year’s onslaught!
Bobbie Allen is an English teacher in a tiny wee all-age, state-run school in the tiny wee island of Alderney. She is a volunteer projectionist for the local cinema in the island, and for the last 4 years, she has been growing her own vegetables with varying success. She is married, without children, except for the 4733 she has cared about throughout her teaching life.
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