5 ways to mark the end of term without a party

With the pandemic putting a stop to the usual Christmas party madness, Kirsty Walker shares her ideas of how educators can still mark the end of term
12th December 2020, 9:00am
Kirsty Walker

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5 ways to mark the end of term without a party

https://www.tes.com/magazine/news/general/5-ways-mark-end-term-without-party
How Do You Mark The End Of Term Without A Christmas Party? Kirsty Walker Has Some Ideas

Usually in the last week of term, our CPD slot would be gleefully abandoned to a joyous Christmas party. The first floor social area would be emptied of students and two gleaming silver urns would be filled with mulled wine - which the poor catering staff would still be scrubbing out by February. There would be a smorgasbord of cakes, pastries and sweets, all on the deputy head's dollar, and people you thought had retired five years ago were suddenly gorging themselves on Lidl's finest festive delicacies. Last year, I was greeted warmly with "Oh thank God Kirsty's here, I thought we'd never get through all this booze".

Obviously, any such plans are out of the window this year. No sharing of food, no one bringing in their homemade cakes, even if they've been thoroughly fumigated, and everyone is social distancing, which makes it hard to accommodate 100 people in what is basically a corridor. So, what can we do to ensure that lovely end-of term feeling in these trying times?


More: Why I've got an 8ft inflatable snowman in my office

Secret Santa: the gifts no-one should buy or receive

GCSE maths: Five Christmas-themed lessons


Attendance sweepstakes

Much like golf, the trick here is that the lowest score wins. The final week of term, sometimes known affectionately as "quiz and chocolate week", often sees the lowest attendance of the academic year, even in normal times. With the spectre of having to self-isolate for any travel and family purposes, I predict that quite a few students will be absent in the last week of term. So why not make a game of it? Everyone sprays a £1 coin with hand sanitiser and throws it into a sterilised bucket and the one with the fewest students marked present in the last week wins the lot. Had a class for which only your 100 per cent attendance-seeking student showed up? Bingo! You're in the lead! Is your lesson at 4pm on a Friday? Jackpot!

Cubicle party

We can't gather in large numbers and buffets are out, so why not have everyone stay at their desks behind a Perspex wall with their own festive packed lunch? Pull your own cracker - that way you always win - and take a selfie wearing your last-minute Christmas jumper purchase and optional reindeer/elf ears. If it makes conversation hard, just chat over Microsoft Teams or write wry comments on a mini whiteboard. Clean up is easy, and it means you only have to deal with your own staffroom and not a whole college party where there's the danger of being cornered by that weird curriculum group - you know the one.

Skivey Zoom meeting

Plan ahead and take a high-resolution picture of the area behind your desk, then upload it as a custom background on Zoom. Record some ambient noise on your phone (computers humming, phones ringing, people sobbing in the corner), and play next to the microphone. Take your work mug home and decant vodka into it. Et voila, you're at home, wearing jogging bottoms and boozing it up and no one is any the wiser. Just be careful to develop "broadband connection issues" before you think it's a great idea to give management some direct and honest feedback.

Rinse the students

Although Christmas chocolates, cards and even small gifts are the norm for further education teachers - I'll just wait while you stop laughing - the Covid restrictions might mean that your college discourages students from showering you with presents. Instead, stick your Paypal address on the last slide of your Christmas PowerPoint presentation and just get the cash direct. Alternatively, set up an online gift registry and send the link to every parent who has emailed you over the first term with suggested minimum donations. For example: for daily progress emails since 1 September, £50 minimum donation; for timetable checks at least once a week, £25, etc. It's worth a go.

Substantial Christmas meal

If you're lucky enough to be in tiers 1 or 2 you can actually eat in a real pub or restaurant, but with a few caveats. Everyone has to be at a separate table because of the ban on mixing with other households, and to achieve this, you'll probably need to book your Christmas meal for 9am on a Tuesday. To avoid shouting across the venue, simply get everyone to fill in a small-talk questionnaire on Google Forms and submit it prior to the event. Question 1: Ready for Christmas? Answer one of "Nowhere near!", "Got it all done in November", or "I've just got to get a few bits". 

And if you just can't face it at all this year, organise Christmas in July and make that last hedonistic Friday a double header. You might want to warn the local bars and put A&E on standby. Merry Christmas!

Kirsty Walker teaches at a college in the North West of England

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