It’s Christmas Crackers Being A Teacher

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Portrait Of Man Blowing Out Cheeks

John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project...
Read more about John Dabell

How will you survive the week before Christmas?

Christmas is now up close and personal and for many teachers this is the most exciting time of the year. Schools are pumped up and everything seems to revolve around just one 9 letter word.

For others the silly season is the darkest term of the year because Christmas is all about being stressed which as every teacher knows is desserts spelled backwards.

As children are winding themselves up into a festive frenzy all you want to do is wind down but that proves almost impossible especially if you are doing a Christmas production. It’s almost obligatory to put on a brave face and behave like Buddy from Elf and if you work with younger children then it is easy to get caught up in all their pregnant anticipation and excitement and actually turn into Buddy.

Sniffing cinnamon sticks, eating mince pies and overdosing on coffee is how some teachers survive and if it helps then give yourself permission. The over-consumption of cakes and confectionery is just one way to get through the madness of the last week.

Walk into any staffroom this time of year and you are guaranteed to see tubs of Celebrations fuelling the soldiers of pedagogy and their Christmas spirits. Whilst it might be tempting to actually reach for the Christmas spirits to muddle through that has to wait for the weekend; don’t worry the tinsel finishing line is within reach.

12 Things To Avoid

Christmas ranks as definitely the best time of year because the psychology of the term is completely different to any other. Things happen that wouldn’t normally happen and people’s behaviour changes. Even giving gifts can be stressful.

The atmosphere is an odd mix of premature exhilaration, nervous exhaustion and delirious excitement. It’s the only time of the year when wearing a tea towel around your head is not frowned upon (if you are 3-6 years old that is) and it isn’t uncommon to see lunchtime supervisors actually explode as they try and keep a lid on things.

Survival is the name of the game and to get the most out of Christmas in your classroom then there are certain things you shouldn’t do. Please avoid:

1. Snowglobes

Children love shaking them but they also make a fabulous mess when dropped.

2. Advent calendars

On the third day of advent I caught a Year 6 child tucking into the whole of December one lunchtime because he’d forgot his sandwiches.

3. Buying a singing Christmas tree

They seem like a good idea at the time but they aren’t. Even the children get sick of the music after the 500th time of pressing ‘press here’.

4. Christmas wordsearches

The children always find a rude word and they are a nightmare to mark.

5. Decorating

You will still be picking up stray bits of tinsel in March and the glitter will never leave your trousers.

6. Party poppers

There is always someone who fires one into someone else’s face point-blank despite strict warnings not to.

7. Crisps

If you have a class party, stick to slices of carrot because crisps always end up on the floor and children still end up eating them.

8. Telling Christmas jokes

Yule not be popular and that ‘elf and safety’ joke from 20 years ago isn’t funny anymore.

9. Conversations about Santa

His existence is not in doubt.

10. The curriculum

Everyone knows that at this time of the year watching films is compulsory and can be justified as cross-curricular learning.

11. Musical chairs

This always ends in tears with subsequent form-filling and angry parents to deal with.

12. Colleagues wearing Christmas jumpers

It’s not big and it’s not clever; you have a reputation to uphold remember. Ebenezer Scrooge’s of the teaching world unite? Not quite, it’s about staying sane and side-stepping the common pitfalls.

There are a few things you do need to do though such as stock up on plenty of PVA glue, scissors, card and tissue paper not to mention copious amounts of glitter and coloured mini pom-pom balls. If you provide this staple diet children will be happy. You will also need to stock up on resilience and plenty of cheer: dig deep.

Don’t be a Christmas turkey

Once the ‘How many more get-ups?’ has reached zero and you realise that you have some festive freedom in front of you then it is crucial for all school staff to relax over the Christmas holidays and avoid the days fretting about the next term.

Whilst some planning and preparation is inevitable no one should be ruining their well-deserved holiday losing sleep over the first week back. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Socialise with people your own age!
  2. Don’t put up Christmas cards at home given to you by children – you need to switch off
  3. Veg out and watch a load of box-sets (don’t eat veg)
  4. Eat lots of chocolate and be lazy
  5. Give yourself days off and ensure they are 100% school free
  6. Avoid getting sucked into conversations about school
  7. Unwind: get plenty of fresh air and exercise
  8. Get plenty of sleep
  9. Live in the present moment and enjoy your presents
  10. Eat more chocolate.

Whoever you are and whatever you teach, the holidays are a time for finding batteries, recharging batteries and saying hello to a slice of sanity again. Stocking up on happiness is key. Friends have probably been on the bottom of your ‘to do list’ because you have been so busy but now is the time to get in touch.

Teaching is the most rewarding  yet the most stressful career to be involved with over the Christmas period so make the most of your holiday and make sure it is just that – a holiday. Keep calm and remember … Santa’s coming!

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