I have acknowledged that it is December and I am willing to embrace the Christmas spirit.
My mind obviously goes back to the days of work. It’s not that long ago. Only five years since my last Christmas with a class. There are certain signposts for the teacher which demonstrate the intensity of the whole affair. I speak as a year six teacher:
There will be insane laughter for no reason. The class becomes awash with rumours about who is going out with who. (I blame the ubiquitous upper junior disco.)
Things will be thrown; pencils, chairs, wobblies and anything else that’s throwable.
Someone will tread on somebody else’s model of the manger.
The ruftiest tuftiest boy will burst into tears for the smallest misdemeanour. Some of these characteristic traits may also apply to the staff.
Yet it started out so calmly:
Staff meeting minutes, Monday 31st October.
The Christmas production will be “Rudolf’s Return to Santa.” Ms O will be directing and auditions take place on Tuesday 7th November lunchtime. Each class will have a CD of the songs. The allocation of year group scenes and rehearsal timetable will be done after the auditions.
Of course, further along in the minutes is a note about testing:
All junior children will sit their levelling APP tests by the week ending of December 12th. Science, maths (2 papers), punctuation, comprehension, spelling, English usage and creative writing should be marked and entered into the data system by Monday 19th December.
Did you notice anything? A bit of a clash between the ever so important testing and the school play.
“Oh but I expect it to be part of your planning and assessment strategy. Surely you are used to planning?” comments the pale faced deputy head, trying not to sound exasperated by “manageable” demands, already becoming clear at the start of term two. That’s the second half of the Autumn term in old money.
Some of the issues can be explained in extracts from the teachers’ weekly evaluations:
Mrs G wants a note explaining why Nathan did not get the main part in the production. Mr R sent in two notes asking the same thing about Edmundo. He then promised to send the head a note complaining about me not writing a reply for the end of the day. Have you received a note from him?
We haven’t had time to go through the songs this week because Conner’s big brother told all the children in the class that they all had “exams” to do to wipe the smile off their faces at the end of term. I’ve had sixteen letters from parents wanting to know why we’re doing a play when there are important exams to do. Mrs McD said the production was “always crap anyway because it was such a mad rush and teachers couldn’t organise a trip across the road.”
A letter arrives at the school office.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all the children learnt the carols by heart for the carol service? Do we have a date by the way? Rev D.P.
Week beginning 21st November:
The class have learnt the chorus from one of the songs. They’re finding the words difficult.
In wet play, Charlotte decided to dye her hair some festive colours with ready mixed paint. Then she went outside and ran about in the rain. Mrs E, the dinner lady tried desperately to catch her. It was hopeless. The extra burden of middle-age proved too much. Ms Y had to take her to first aid. I sent a note home with Charlotte to explain the state of her hair and clothes. The cleaner refused to clean it up. I finished it at about six-thirty. It looks reasonable apart from the multi-coloured speckles on the newly painted ceiling.
An internal memo goes around each class:
Please give me a final date for the children’s class party and games.
Another note reveals the timetable for testing.
Ms O is showing signs of bursting. Saffron, the main actor has brought in a note to say that she will not be available for the evening performance due to the brownies’ Christmas party.
The hall will be out of action on Thursday and Friday of this week to enable the PTA to set up stalls for the Christmas Fayre.
Mrs D gets a note of her own:
The PTA will be using your class in the Christmas Fayre. Please ensure nothing is left out or it may be sold. As your back wall is currently blank could you please fill it with appropriate topic-based children’s work.
Mrs D considers booking an immediate flight to Dar es Salam to do volunteer work in Tanzania. Mr S remembers the calmness of that staff meeting;
“It’s up to you to ensure that there are no last minute rushes this year,” whispered the head.
Ms O calls for a lunchtime meeting in her room to discuss the annual production crisis. The headteacher declines to attend as she is already booked for a festive lunch with the local mayor and representatives from their French twin town. In the meeting an emergency timetable is thrashed out. Mrs G’s concerns about the preparations for the testing was politely but firmly dismissed. Mr G was heard to say that the consequences of the testing will come in the new term.
“We’ll all be feeling crap anyway so it won’t matter. No-one’s going to sack us.” Mrs G’s protestations were drowned by the sound of a mass exit. There would be a queue for the microwave.
In one year four class, three children sneaked in during the very same lunchtime to see how far they could slide along the corridor on wet paper towels. Jake, a boy who had never been in trouble before went the furthest. Unfortunately he slipped over and was awaiting first aid in the photocopy room.
Every teacher, every teaching assistant and every other form of helper wonder how they are going to get through the next two weeks.
Fast forward to the last newsletter of term. The governing body would like to thank all the staff and children for another stunning Christmas production. Special thanks goes to the school choir for their performances in two local carol services and the switching on of the Christmas lights on the first Sunday in December.
At three-thirty on the last day of term, the teachers and assistants drift into the staff room. They had intended to grab a quick cuppa before going back to the classroom to take down the decorations. But they stay and chat.
A grateful pupil gave one of the teachers a bottle of wine; she opens it. It’s one of those precious collective moments when you realise that you don’t really want to strangle the year three team because they overran their rehearsal time. It has been another triumph of teamwork. More so, the children have proved to be absolute stars and that is why we teach them.
This happens every year without fail. As I write, I know what will be going on. I can see the faces and feel the tension. I can hear the noise among the pile of mini cocktail sausages that Jeremy accidentally knocked over in one of the party games. He cried. Then Will decides to take up the challenge of eating them all off the floor like a cat. The children burst into their customary pre-Christmas hysterics as he howls his satisfied miaows.
Thank-you for reading.