Tinsel has been tacked to the ceiling of the canteen, snowflakes are plastered on every window in sight and wreaths of holly adorn the doors of the more festive teachers’ classrooms.
The fairy lights on the enormous tree in reception have been switched on and are positively gleaming.
There is a buzz of excitement in the air.
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It’s the last day before the Christmas holidays and everyone is feeling jolly.
In the corridor, students line up outside their classroom, chatting about their plans for the two-week break and speculating about what fun, festive activities their fabulous teacher has in store for them.
Around them, their peers stumble into rooms to the merry tones of Jingle Bells, greeted by teachers wearing reindeer antlers or handing out candy canes.
The door in front of them opens. Will there be a festive film? A quiz? Or perhaps some games?
The room is silent. Their teacher stands there smiling, directing them to their seats as usual. The starter is displayed on the board and there isn’t a Santa hat in sight.
One student precariously raises his hand and in a quivering voice asks: “Excuse me, Miss, but are we doing something fun today? It is Christmas.”
“Bah humbug!” the teacher roars. “You are here to learn and learn you will!”
Downhill to Christmas
It is usually around this time of year that staff start to plan their activities for the week before Christmas.
In the staffroom, they tell their colleagues how they’ve already checked their Netflix subscription works on their smartboard or discovered a treasure trove of Christmas-themed quizzes and worksheets online.
They’ve put trees up in their rooms and have bought a bag of treat-sized sweets for each class. It’s all downhill to Christmas from here.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with this. If teachers wish to take time on the last day of school to celebrate with their classes, they should be allowed to.
Both students and teachers have worked hard up until this point and this sort of reward time can be beneficial for helping to develop those positive relationships with classes.
But there are too many whispers, too many glances and too many offhand comments directed towards teachers who choose to teach on the last day before the holidays. Allusions to the Grinch or Ebenezer Scrooge are common.
Is this fair? Aren’t they simply delivering the prescribed curriculum to their students in the time directed to them? After all, if an hour's lesson were to be taken before every Christmas, Easter or summer holiday, then students would lose 15 hours of learning during their time in secondary school alone.
Teachers should be careful about judging each other on choices like this. It can cause unnecessary feelings of insecurity and even friction in the workplace. Moreover, sometimes offhand comments can make their way to students’ ears and build up negative images of members of staff.
The solution? Teachers should do what is best for their classes and what they feel most comfortable with.
Whether they wish to cram another lesson on subordinate clauses in before Christmas or watch 60 minutes of Home Alone, then they shouldn’t be criticised for their choice.
Let’s dispense with the jibes and taunts and remember what Christmas is all about – catching up on sleep and drinking too much wine.
Laura Tsabet is lead practitioner of teaching and learning at a school in Bournemouth. She tweets @lauratsabet