Teachers, thank you for the joy you 'gived' us this (and every) Christmas

As another year comes to a close, Henry Hepburn retells a Christmas story that will warm the hearts of teachers everywhere

Henry Hepburn

Michael Tidd explains why he has the utmost respect for teachers of infants in the run-up to Christmas

Lessons of parenting, Part 2,741: the road to the nativity is riddled with potential pitfalls.

We’d just about got over one obstacle in the road. This was a disagreement over our daughter’s line in the school’s nativity for nursery children and P1s. “The wise men gave their gifts to Jesus,” our little sheep was to say, according to the note that came home in her bag.

Except that she kept saying, “The wise men gived their gifts to Jesus,” and, when we gently suggested that that wasn’t quite right, she dismissed us – me, my wife and her big sister – with the disdain that members of the Flat Earth Society reserve for Galileo and Copernicus.

Eventually, she rolled her eyes, puffed out her cheeks and spluttered, “OK, then!”, indulging our idiosyncratic approach to the English language, while taking unspoken satisfaction at being right, whatever nonsense we insisted upon.

The day of the opening performance came, and all seemed in order that morning. There was the usual noisy rush of stuff just about getting done in time – coffee machine gurgling, electric toothbrushes buzzing, the daily interrogations over lost hair accessories – and, amid it all, our P1 was deciding on what she wanted for her lunches that week, a task I’d forgotten to perform the day before. She usually likes a hot meal, but for some reason decided that on one particular day she’d like a “finger roll”.

The first nativity performance came around. Our sheep was positioned at the front of the stage, and she beamed to see me pass by, a few feet from where she sat with her fellow little lamb.

With a bit of time to spare, I saw that some older pupils were serving up homebakes, tea and coffee for a donation. Hmm, I thought, a wee sugar-caffeine combo would be nice, so I popped some cash in the bucket and sidled back to my position, towards the rear of several rows of expectant parents and grandparents.

Then I heard it.

My lamb was not so happy now: evidently, whatever she’d eaten today wasn’t quite as filling as what she was used to. In my rush to do the menu choices, I hadn’t considered the implications of her making a stage debut with the unfamiliar feeling of not having scoffed a hot meal.

“I’m hungry!” she mouthed over to me with a frown. I mouthed back some words of encouragement to keep her mind from this growing distraction – to no avail.

“I want something to eat!” she said audibly, as the teachers got the music lined up and the audience buzz settled for the start of the show.

Then she saw it: the chocolate bird’s nest, topped with a jelly baby.

This pushed her over the edge – the unfairness of it all. She lolled on the ground in indignation, took off her sheepy headgear, and kept repeating her protests at my gluttony. One “I’m hungry!” was perfectly timed to become a new lyric in the silence between the official end of a song and the applause that followed a beat or two later.

Then, it was time for her line. Against the odds, she gathered herself, approached the microphone, and with infectious gusto, proclaimed it to the room.

“The wise men gived their gifts to Jesus!”

Teachers of Scotland (and far beyond): the gargantuan efforts that go into helping four- and five-year-olds pull off their Christmas spectaculars reflect the amazing work that you put into your jobs, at all levels, throughout the year.

We salute you all.

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Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn

Henry Hepburn is the news editor for Tes Scotland

Find me on Twitter @Henry_Hepburn

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