Usually, the end of this term would be marked with the staff Christmas do, but this year that's a no go. So what will we be missing the most?
1. Glamming up
If you’re anything like me, fashion is not uppermost in your mind when choosing your outfit for school – especially in these days of peripatetic teaching where we are trotting between classrooms hourly. Bring on the comfy shoes and serviceable cardigans! But the Christmas party would have been a chance to emerge from these dowdy weeds and transform into a glowy, glittering Christmas angel.
Silver lining? Let’s be real here – heels mean one thing: pain. So let’s relish the fact that we may be partying on Zoom this year – the perfect opportunity to just glam up your top half. No one need ever know you’re wearing a perished pair of jogging bottoms and ratty slippers from the waist down. Just don’t ruin the illusion by getting up to dance in your living room.
2. The big festive meal
A joyful tradition at many a school Christmas party is the festive meal served up from the school canteen. Who hasn’t manfully taken on a slice of mass-catered turkey crown, attempted to assuage its dryness with lashings of lumpy gravy, or poked interestedly at what may, or may not, be a hunk of Christmas pudding?
Silver lining? This year, I urge you to seize the opportunity for a festive meal of your own choosing while attending your virtual party. Be creative: a whole tray of Waitrose sausage rolls? Challenge accepted. Curry, eaten from its silver tray? No one will ever know. Just crisps? At least choose a festive flavour.
3. The gossip
We all know that the best bit of any party is the debrief afterwards – but will we even have any gossip this year? No one is going to be waking up in a colleague’s spare room, sweating gin and regretting their life choices this year.
Silver lining? With no opportunity to misbehave, at least you know you can go into the new term in 2021 without besmirching your own good name. For this year, anyway...
4. Festive drinks
It's a staple of Christmas time. Both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks become a bit more fun with gold sparkly straws and tinsel around the pint glass. It just won't be the same zooming in without it.
Silver lining? There’s a funny viral video going around at the moment, in which a lady is taking part in an online speed awareness course. She sips at her mug thoughtfully, until it’s revealed that the "fruit tea" she’s supping is actually red wine, and she’s just sellotaped the string of the teabag to the inside rim of her cup.
If you’re prone to going wild at the Christmas do (aren’t we all?), this is the perfect opportunity to prove to SLT that you’ve mended your wild-child ways. If you aren’t a drinker, or secretly dread parenting with a hangover the next morning, this works the opposite way, too. Either way, all you have to do is ensure you’re refilling your drink off-camera.
Deep down, only the most miserly of Scrooges really relishes the prospect of a virtual party. This crazy year has seen us at our best, our most stressed, perhaps at our loneliest, but certainly at our most creative as we navigate this "new normal".
But one day, restrictions will end, and once more you will be free to tell your line manager exactly what you think of their latest policy, with lipstick smeared and tinsel draped artfully over one shoulder. That won’t be this December – but all the more reason to look forward to a bigger and better end of year party. No one would judge you for bringing out the mistletoe in July, just to make up for it.
Laura May Rowlands is head of English in a secondary school in Hampshire