Thank God it's Friday

21st January 2005 at 00:00
MONDAY It's the Christmas concert matinee. I am on the door and it is my job to refuse entry to any adult without a precious, rationed ticket.

Some have been supposedly lost, forgotten, not given out by the teacher, or, as one parent hints, stolen by another mum. Eventually, everyone is seated and gatecrashers are standing in the aisles. The concert is lovely.

Teachers who were driven to despair in rehearsals are full of smiles and laughter. Or is it hysteria?

TUESDAY Christmas dinner, and the cook hasn't got enough ice cream reindeer. All the children want one, and several younger children are crying because of the shortage. I am dishing out mashed potato when in walks the director of education. He's charming but declines Christmas lunch until he finds he can eat it in the relative peace of the staffroom.

WEDNESDAY "Miss, how do you spell umblin?" calls out Alan. "Umblin, what's that?" I ask, adding that phrase beloved of primary teachers: "Tell me your whole sentence." Alan, who is innkeeper in our Nativity play, announces:

"Welcome to my humble inn." I'm going to miss moments like this.

THURSDAY I am sent home at lunchtime by the headteacher and told to "make yourself beautiful for this evening". It's a special event and I'm the guest of honour. I don't want to disappoint anyone but seven hours is not long enough to make myself beautiful at my age.

The hall is transformed with fairy lights, candles, carols playing, wonderful aromas from the kitchen and, best of all, the people - the head who appointed me, colleagues old and new, parents (some of whom I've taught), family and friends. Our chair of governors says kind things about me and I smile, struggling to recognise myself in the description.

FRIDAY At assembly I'm fine until the children sing "Light a Candle in the Window". The younger children can't imagine why I'm crying. Then a little voice pipes up from the front row: "Has she gone yet? Can we have the party now?" We all laugh - another magic moment for the collection.

Christine Sheehan recently retired after 25 years teaching in a small rural primary in Cheshire

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