There is something special about the run-up to Christmas in primary schools. For any adult - even a student teacher facing her final tutor visit - it is impossible not to be infected by nostalgia.
From the moment you step inside the school and see the Christmas tree twinkling in the corner, next to Santa's red letterbox (he is a traditionalist when it comes to utilities), you are transported. During the day, the sound of young voices warbling about donkeys and shepherds drifts along the corridors, and in the evenings the cleaners can be heard grumbling about all the "blinkin' glitter" in the carpet. Resistance is futile.
As a student teacher, the hope is that this generous, festive mood will rub off on your tutor. In the days before my final "crit", the school was a hive of activity. Santa's workshop would appear relaxed by comparison and I had little time to worry.
This is the time of year when plate-spinning skills come into their own. Pupil behaviour is less of an issue when you can remind them that: "Santa is watching", or use the Advent calendar chocolates as a "motivator". But it is still a marvel to watch teachers multi-tasking - organising the class to finish the term's school work and overseeing the transformation of egg boxes into a herd of red-nosed reindeer (for the craft stall).
My skills in this area need development, as anyone who saw me on my "crit" day would testify. I arrived in school early and gazed around the empty classroom, bags of resources, prepared at 2am that morning, sitting at my feet. For a moment I was frozen. What was I meant to be doing again? "I think I am having a panic attack," I muttered to myself. Then the children and the tutor arrived. Sweaty palmed, I took the register, and the lesson began. I remember my voice wobbling and someone swinging on a chair, but somehow I got through it and the children were brilliant. I passed. It was the best Christmas present.
My second term at primary school has gone so quickly and my job remains crazy. School reports, parents' night, forward plans, online profiles and Nativity Play have consumed my life the past few weeks.
I can't believe it's the end of term - I have been trying to control the levels of excitement as the children approach the Christmas holiday. Teaching maths or language to 23 hyperactive children can be a very interesting and challenging experience.
I have written my first reports. Completing the interim reports was time-consuming - trying to keep my comments positive, while writing about the "difficult" children had me up until the early hours.
The days leading up to parents' evening were daunting; this would be the first time I would meet many of them. I hoped they would be pleased with my teaching and the reports I had given about their child.
Meeting the first few parents was nerve-racking. I was fortunate to have my 0.3 teacher to step in when required. Luckily, this wasn't necessary and the so-called "dreaded" night proved enjoyable. It was rewarding being told that the work you're doing is good and their child is happy in your class.
My school football team has been an excellent opportunity to build relationships and have some proper fun with the children. Although results in matches have not been the most positive, our weekly sessions have offered me some enjoyable and quite comical moments with the children. In one match, I replaced a boy with a girl, who then proceeded to mightily kick another boy from the opposing school between the legs. The significant number of parents and teachers in attendance had difficulty controlling their laughter.
Planning engaging lessons, managing pupil behaviour, classroom management and developing a classroom presence are all areas that I have learnt. But the biggest lesson has been finding that balance between my home life and work. At times, my "to do" list has appeared never-ending and having any form of home life seemed an impossibility. I've realised there is only so much I can do and I have to prioritise my tasks.