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‘Three Top Tips from Tom’ will be updated weekly with the best advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management.

Tom Bennettis the TES adviser on behaviour and a teacher at Raines Foundation, an inner city state school in Tower Hamlets. He regularly supports teachers on TES through our behaviour forum and monthly newsletters on behaviour.

Merry Christmas (work is over): managing the last week of term.

If you teach any child, ever, anywhere, you will be familiar with the metronomic repetition of one request: ‘Are we having a fun lesson?’ when breaks approach and seasons roll around. In Mr Bennett’s class, the answer I always give is, ‘Of course, little one; ALL my lessons are fun,’ before I pass them a textbook and set them a 1500 word essay on the ethics of consumerism. But it’s a tricky one, isn’t it? If you teach in almost any UK school, the demands for ease, indulgence and soft learning increase in direct proportion to the proximity of December the 25th. I have not checked if this is the case in schools with non-Abrahamic intakes; I presume they get lairy as Wesak looms, or something. Here’s how to deal with the demand to down tools.

  1. Keep lessons going as long as humanly possible - that’s right, real, curricular lessons, like the ones they get the rest of the year. Humbug! I hear from the cheap seats (I have an extraordinarily good internet connection), ‘tis the season to drown in luxury chocolate. Perhaps. But we need to consider what we’re saying about school- is it something so valueless, to be discarded at the first sight of a break? The message this sends is that it isn’t really that important. Besides, often what’s really going on is that the teacher wants to down tools, and uses the season as an excuse to put on Happy Feet or Big Momma’s House 2 (God have mercy) instead of doing…well, what we’re paid to do, which is teach. Besides, as I found out in one really tough school that was struggling to get attendance up, if you let them play Dance Party and Ker-Plunk! instead of learning, many kids will, not unreasonably, say, ‘What’s the point is going to school that week? I can play COD at home.’ And they’d be right. What’s school for? To learn must be up there, at least.
  2. Roll with it.Keeping the teaching train on the tracks doesn’t mean sending them out into the snow to shovel paths; bring Christmas into the classroom in a meaningful way. I teach RE, so job done for the likes of me. But any lesson can be amended to include themes that pertain to Christmas, or Christianity more broadly. Even a PE lesson can explicitly focus on cooperative tactics, for example - passing, sportsmanship, sacrifice - in powerful ways.
  3. Reward. Christmas is packed with many significant themes, and one of them is surely compassion: giving, helping and sharing with others. THIS is where the element of ‘the fun lesson’ comes in. On, perhaps the last day, plan something that is purely about reward and celebrating success (which should be a golden thread throughout your whole practise in general of course, appropriately applied). But this shouldn’t just be lazily switching off your brain and switching on the DVD; it should be about getting them involved in a gentle activity where everyone can participate and hopefully, feel rewarded in some way- a quiz or game that has a covert aim of giving everyone a treat/ win. Or it could be an end of year certificate ceremony. Go nuts.

Don’t be in a race to be the earliest teacher to suspend lessons; that just makes life a misery for your peers who are struggling to maintain focus in other subjects. Support your colleagues- and the children- by giving them the gift of education. THEN, when you really do break up, it’ll be a break earned, not stolen from the futures of children.

Ho!Ho!Ho!

Tom

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