If you work in a primary school, there are four phrases you're bound to hear in the run-up to Christmas. Starting with...
1. ‘Hold Baby Jesus gently!’
Usually uttered in a long-suffering, increasingly high-pitched voice through gritted teeth as the aforementioned plastic dolly centrepiece of this year’s nativity tableau is getting swung around 360 degrees by an ankle, or perhaps treated to the spin pass combo that Joseph and Mary learned at rugby training the day before.
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2. ‘No thanks, I’m trying to be good'
Immediately followed by wolfing down four of whatever hugely calorific staffroom morsel has just been offered. Trying to limit your sugar intake in a primary school in December is like trying to swim without getting wet. It’s just not going to happen. Don’t worry about it, though, because it’s the same for everybody else. You see people starting to twitch if they go too long without a Celebration and even the janitor is on Quality Street and double-strength coffee for breakfast by the time the end of term is in sight.
3. ‘I appreciate it is a busy time of year, but…’
This is an email staple in December and is always followed by a request (demand?) for you to do something. The sender seems to think that by acknowledging the business of the time of year it will somehow make it less busy, therefore leaving you plenty of time to do whatever it is they have asked you to do. Eh, no. If you really appreciate that it’s a busy time of year, Carol, you’ll not bother asking me to do it until January.
4. ‘What do you mean there are no calendar tabs left?’
This is a snooze-you-lose, survival of the fittest kind of gig and it is every man and woman for themself. The calendar tabs arrive in the staffroom and it’s like a scene from The Hunger Games as teachers scrap to get to them first so that their cherubs can design a masterwork of a calendar for the kitchen fridge. Not securing those 33 tabs for your class is not an option, so get your elbows out and get in there. And may the odds be forever in your favour.
Susan Ward is depute headteacher at Kingsland Primary School in Peebles, in the Scottish Borders. She tweets @susanward30