'Tis the season to sit back and press play

18th December 2009 at 00:00

The DVD countdown to Christmas is reaching its climax. In tinselled classrooms across the country, teachers have been switching on projectors and surreptitiously screening their all-time favourite movies.

We began easing them in two weeks before the end of term. At first, we justified these screenings, citing some tenuous link to the core curriculum. "My Year 11s are struggling with the concept of the tragic villain, so I'm using Die Hard: With a Vengeance to support their understanding."

The great thing for English teachers is the cornucopia of Hollywood movies that exist within six degrees of separation from any named literary text. My own timetable has been so alive with opportunities to sit back and push play button that I'm now waiting for Orange to approach me with sponsorship.

Last week, I added some cultural enrichment to Year 11's study of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men with an impromptu screening of O Brother, Where Art Thou? - broadly the same historical era, similar theme of friendship, and all I could find in my bottom drawer. It was a good call; while the movie played, the kids became enraptured with the text messages they were covertly sending beneath the desks.

As Christmas gets closer, our choices get bolder. Any remote attempt to link the DVD to the core curriculum is finally abandoned in a flurry of filmic festivities. Occasionally, pupils may have to endure the same All-Time Family Favourite - free with The Mail on Sunday - more than once, and they are not averse to voicing their complaints. In our recent carol service, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" rang out with: "On the fifth day of Christmas, my teachers showed to me ... Five Lord of the Rings, Four Shrek the Thirds, Three X-Men, Two Chicken Runs, and a knock-off of The Addams Family" (which, incidentally, I'd bought in good faith at a car boot sale).

But Christmas isn't just about sitting in a sweaty classroom with a third-generation copy of the latest Harry Potter movie. School Christmases are brimming with other Bacchanalian revels. My personal favourite? The school disco. What more heart-warming way could there be to end the term than to fill the main hall with 200 pubescent pupils, 500 Cadbury Freddos and 30 gallons of Lucozade Sport, and shake them up to a soundtrack of happy hardcore? The senior management team arrive, in Santa hats, to assess the quality of the pupils' enjoyment, then scurry off to set new unreachable happiness targets across the whole of key stage 3.

Towards the end, there's not a dry armpit in the house as, en masse, Year 8 perform "The Macarena". Teachers, getting wind of the imminent finale, gather in the harvest of discarded chocolate wrappers, desperately trying to avoid the DJ's gaze as he searches for three likely stooges to judge the inter-house disco-dancing competition.

The last day dawns. Pastoral tutors pack up their cars with their Christmas bounty: the cards, the chocolates, the jewellery from George at Asda. The Muppet Christmas Carol is relegated back to the bottom of my filing cabinet and, just as I switch off my projector, I notice that someone has written "Merry Christmas Ms Briggs" on my whiteboard. My heart melts. School at Christmas? I wouldn't be anywhere else.

Beverley Briggs, Secondary English teacher, Gateshead.

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