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Give me Ozzy for Christmas

The wisdom of Henry Walpole

By the time you read this, you will nearly have reached the finishing post. The whole staff will be sitting on those unaccountably low chairs at break time, hoping that overdosing on the pile of Ferrero Rocher in front of them will in some way dispel the hangover from last night's staff Christmas do. The more sober among you will be trying to forget what they saw the headteacher do to the waiter with a Christmas decoration ... a new venue will be required next year.

Those of you who are class teachers may already have begun to sort the presents that pupils have bought you (keepcharity shopbin). When I was a class teacher, my heart would leap when a child appeared with a wine-shaped parcel. "Fantastic!" I'd think. "That Father Christmas letter lesson with the heavy emphasis on the teacher example in the introduction did get through to them." But most of my presents confirmed how little children listened in my lessons.

Teachers very rarely get the presents they want. More often they get presents the children want. A miniature skateboard was a personal low for me, but you have to wonder what went through the mind of a pupil who bought one of my colleagues (a devout, middle-aged Hindu woman) a Metallica calendar.

Annoyingly, teachers sometimes get presents the parents think they want ("Joshua said you'd like wine, but we thought a Gervase Phinn novel would be more appropriate.").

Of course, teachers most commonly get the presents that no one wants. Most are beyond description. Suffice it to say that, on selling such tat, the shopkeeper turns his sign round to "Closed - gone on holiday", then has a massive party.

Many staffrooms hold a "shelf of crap" competition at this stage of term. Unbelievably, the standard seems to get lower each year, with those sign-holding teddy bears a particularly bad buy ("Thank you for being the best teecher").

So what would teachers really value - apart from alcohol - to block out the memory of teaching that difficult class the unfeasibly complicated numeracy strategy method of long multiplication? I've an idea. You know those celebrity-voiced satellite navigation units? Perhaps there's a gap in the market for something similar for parents' evenings. Simply enter the ability and behaviour levels of the pupil, then the computer generates a comment that is delivered by a celebrity voice.

Perhaps that tricky parent would get the message if, instead of another evening talking about Jimmy "being easily distracted", they got Ozzy Osbourne's voice slurring "Your kid's a f*cking nightmare." Yes, it might cause problems in the short term, but that's what heads are paid to deal with. Also, there is the danger that you might not get a Christmas gift from that parent ... but I think you could live with that.

More from Henry in a fortnight.

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