It’s that time of year again. The time of year when every teacher in the land is being greeted at the beginning of every lesson with a chorus of ‘Miss, can we watch a film?’ No. ‘But Miss, it’s Christmas!’ No it isn’t, not yet. The tinsel may be up, the baubles may be hanging from fir trees across the land, but we’ve still got curriculum to cover and cover it we shall. I’d rather not have to drag you through what we’ve still got to cover before Christmas, but if I have to, I will. And it isn’t just limited to Primary schools, or KS3, or even KS4, students from 4-18 are insisting that just because the calendar has turn over to December, it is now an excuse to stop working and watch Elf on a loop.
Not that I don’t love Christmas, I do, but I’m choosing to keep it out of the classroom until the last week of term at least, I might even go all Gandalf on it until the last day of term, barring its entry into my haven of learning shouting ‘You shall not pass!’, whilst 30 English students try their very best to sneak it in through the windows… Oh alright then, we can watch the film of the book we’re studying, or a documentary on WW1 poets, but not anything remotely related to Christmas.
Every school I have worked in has rightly insisted that teachers teach up to the wire, until the bell goes on the last day and with most holidays this is achievable but with Christmas, it seems that although we have all these rules and guidelines, this is the one that students just don’t understand. There is so much curriculum to cover, we can’t really spare time for what one colleague used to refer to as ‘the silly season’, particularly when you account for some absence, a couple of insets and other whole school interruptions here and there, but it appears that I’m battling against the tide of media-encouraged student hilarity.
So we watch the film of the book we’re studying, I even stop it at key points and we have some excellent class discussions about characterisation and plot however I know there’s going to be a problem that arises out of this seemingly innocuous and curriculum-relevant viewing activity. When we come back after all the festivities have been complete ready to start a new term, the film version is all the students will remember, is all they will be able to quote and reference and I’ll need to teach it from the book again, going over old ground in an attempt to instil the original literature into my charges.
The problem is, I remember this after I’ve spoken my mantra of ‘No, we’re not watching a Christmas film, we’re still supposed to be learning!’ and I sit with my head in my hands thinking ‘Bugger, we should have watch Elf.’
Englishteach101 is a secondary English teacher in the South West of England