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A teacher's 12 ways of surviving until Christmas

For all the excitement and anticipation, the run-up to Christmas can be a stressful time, particularly for primary teachers balancing end-of-term tests with the exuberance of small children.

But hope can be found among the glitter. Writing in this week’s TES, primary headteacher Steve Eddison reveals the 12 steps he took to survive the Nightmare Before Christmas.

‘One word of warning’

For small children, the very mention of Christmas is equivalent to mainlining Haribo: excitement levels go through the roof and concentration levels fall off a cliff. You must avoid saying the C-word for as long as possible – at least until the end of November.

Two suitable parents

Casting the nativity play is a delicate task. You may be looking for a Mary who is meek and mild, but chances are it will be the brash and bold who put themselves forward. Be was creative in persuading them – and their parents – that being a Wise Person is much more rewarding.

Three core assessments

End-of-term tests in reading, writing and maths are probably not on your wish list, but while you can bemoan the injustice, they won’t go away. You just have to grit your teeth and get on with it.

Four tubs of glitter

There may be less marking than usual, but there is a lot more glitter. And glue. Don’t think that an afternoon making decorations is an opportunity to relax, because keeping track of the craft scissors will require all your powers of concentration.

Five riotous rehearsals

The nativity play brings out the director in all of us. Usually at the same time. Avoid chaos – and falling out over "artistic differences" – by making sure everyone has a clear role, and they don’t overlap.

Six bouts of brawling

All this excitement is bound to lead to tears and tantrums, so inject a note of peace into the school Christmas party with some calming games. Alternate pass-the-parcel with Dead Fishes, aka Sleeping Lions, to turn the frenzy levels down a notch or two.

Seven strains of streptococci

It’s when you’re at your most stretched that you’re most vulnerable to every bug flying around. It’s also when you feel worst about taking a day off and burdening your colleagues. Be prepared to take a hot lemon remedy out on playground duty.

Eight boys a-sliding

In the absence of ice, a polished floor provides the perfect surface for boys to disrupt the school disco with random acts of sliding. One option is putting on Cha Cha Slide by DJ Casper and leading the children in a bit of synchronised dancing. It may not look great on YouTube, but it will bring some order to the chaos.

Nine babies crying

Even if your play rehearsals went swimmingly, the performance is bound to be fraught. If it’s not parents stampeding for the best seats and then complaining when they can’t see their little angels, it’s every baby in the room but Jesus bawling their heads off. And that’s only because somebody took his batteries out.

Ten pounds for presents

Buying presents for every child in the class is an expensive undertaking, so thrifty teachers may have to resort to making personalised gifts, even if this does mean staying up until 3am the night before.

Eleven engaging tasks

Taking down the Christmas displays while keeping an eye on 30 children is a recipe for last-minute disaster. Avoid seeing your hard work ending in mayhem by finding ways to occupy the children that don’t occupy you, such as playing games, watching DVDs or colouring in pictures of reindeer.

Twelve fancy cocktails

At last, the staff Christmas night out. But that sense of euphoria you feel? That’s nature’s way of making sure you don’t feel too pleased with yourself. Resist the two-for-one cocktails, unless you want to spend the holiday worrying about how you can ever look the deputy head in the face again.

*Read Steve Eddison’s full countdown to surviving the festive season in the 19 December edition of TES on your tablet or phone or by downloading the TES Reader app for Android or iOS. Or pick it up at all good newsagents


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