That magical time of year again

18th December 1998 at 00:00
As friends not in primary teaching tell us, Christmas with little children must be magical. And it is, but not always for the most obvious reasons.

At this time of year, primary teachers are near to the end of their tethers as colds, flu and the excitement of Christmas build up. Like most schools, we have the pleasures of the Christmas bazaar. I was hidden behind the PE store curtain, converting it into our Santa's grotto, as one class after the other trooped into the hall to rehearse their Christmas plays. What I overheard proved to me that even if the spirit of Christmas is wearing thin, Joyce Grenfell is alive and well.

I heard the following delivered at full volume by harassed teachers: "No, Jeremy, wise men don't pick noses."

"No, no! What should the fourth snowflake say?" "Are you supposed to be on the Bethlehem bustling? Then get off."

"Icicles do NOT do that, Benjamin."

"I want no more movement under the curtain till I tell you. I know it's fun but it's not in the script."

"That donkey is not a handkerchief, Darren."

"Joseph, stop scratching. You're rocking the inn."

All the above make perfect sense when you are in the thick of the action. Then one girl vainly trying to overcome her problem in pronouncing "turmoil" announced triumphantly:

"I can't do that. I'm in a terminal!" We got our grotto ready in time and on Saturday 150 children trooped through, the youngest a believing three-year-old, the oldest a cynical 11-year-old. Talented man that he is, our Santa coped with the queue of impatient parents, the confidences of the youngest and the jokes of the oldest. Best of all, having been prepared beforehand by a worried mum, he was able to produce a letter from his pocket to explain to a worried child who had recently moved to a new home that Santa did know his new address and would be sure to visit.

Our friends are right. We have had an exhausting but magical Christmas - before December even got started. And now we're looking forward to a restful New Year. All we have to worry about then is our second OFSTED.

Bob Aston is head of a junior school in Kent

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