Making Christmas joyful is a struggle this year

With everything needing to be looked at afresh, suddenly December has become an administrative nightmare. Bah, humbug, says Michael Tidd
27th November 2020, 11:00am

Share

Making Christmas joyful is a struggle this year

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/making-christmas-joyful-struggle-year
Cardboard Cut-out Snowman, Wearing A Face Mask

The prospect of a vaccine on the horizon must surely be the greatest of possible Christmas gifts for all of us. 

After months of turmoil, and huge changes to the way we run our schools, the very prospect of a return to normality finally seems within our grasp. And what a relief it will be.

With Christmas approaching, it's also been another period of desperately trying to find solutions to problems that have never previously existed.

I'm the first to say that schools should be focused on education and learning right to the end of term, but I'm also not so curmudgeonly as to ignore the fact that Christmas in school - certainly at primary school - should be a time of joy, too. 

Coronavirus: Christmas as an administrative nightmare

From the arrival of the school Christmas tree to the end-of-term performances, there are moments in the primary school calendar that can bring genuine excitement and pleasure to a school - enjoyment that may be harder to come by in some family homes. 

But this year, again, it's a new struggle to achieve the usual things.

For the first time in my teaching career, the Christmas postbox has been a topic of discussion at a senior leadership meeting. In every school I've worked in, this is just one of those things that happens. I don't know that I could name the person responsible for bringing out the postbox each year, but someone always makes sure it happens, and children share in the excitement of receiving post - a joy sadly lacking in most adult lives these days.

This year we've had to set a deadline for posting cards to allow for a bit of quarantining time before sorting and then distribution. For the first time in history, the school postal service is even less efficient than the Royal Mail in December. 

Add to that the decision about what to do about a Christmas tree, what is permissible with decorations, and how on earth we manage the operational nightmare that is the Christmas lunch, and suddenly December has become an administrative nightmare.

A state of uncertainty hanging over everything

In some ways, the temporary nature of it all is what makes it all the more challenging. Like flat-dwellers with an insecure tenancy, nobody dares commit to anything for the long term, for fear that any plans could soon be cast aside as a result of new restrictions. 

Likewise, any arrangements we do make are likely to be for this year only - or at least, so we hope.

Such transience is exhausting. A few years ago, knowing that we would be relocating 150 miles South at some point, my wife and I lived in that permanent limbo: never investing too much in furniture or decoration, never committing to long-term plans, waiting for the day when we knew our roots were set down for the long term. 

For many of us in schools, that same state of uncertainty hangs over everything, from nativities to prospective parent tours and PTA events. We know that what we do now is not for ever, but what we cannot yet know is when for ever will be on the agenda again. 

And it's draining. It makes every task that little bit harder, and takes our focus from the long to the short term.

But perhaps, once we've got this Christmas and its video carol concerts and pared-back decorations out the way, there might just be a glimpse of a future where Year 6 leavers get a proper send off and residential visits are back on the agenda. 

And I, for one, look forward to the day that the semi-permanent arrow marking the one-way routes around our campus are a distant memory - or, at the very least, a more washed-out shade of yellow.

Michael Tidd is headteacher at East Preston Junior School in West Sussex. He tweets @MichaelT1979

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Register for free to read more

You can read two more articles on Tes for free this month if you register using the button below.

Alternatively, you can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters

Already registered? Log in

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Subscribe to read more

You can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters