When everything else fails, laugh

25th November 2005 at 00:00
The run up to the end of this term is the toughest. You get to school when it's beginning to get light and leave in the dark: colds and sore throats seem permanent. What with Diwali and Eid at the beginning of November, Christmas and Hanukkah at the end of term and fireworks going off for weeks, there's so much happening in children's lives to make them excited and tired. And that means they'll be even more difficult to teach than usual.

In some schools, the hype at this time of year gets too much and everyone ends up shattered. People put so much into trying to make Christmas perfect in school that by the time the holiday arrives they're too tired or ill to enjoy it. Although the time before Christmas is fun and potentially full of magic moments, you end up longing for the mundane routine of everyday school life. So how are you going to survive?

Induction can help. For a start, having the 10 per cent reduced timetable and 10 per cent guaranteed planning, preparation and assessment time means that you're the luckiest cohort of NQTs. You are getting it, aren't you? It's your statutory entitlement so be assertive, and if it gets cancelled, keep a note so that you can get it back later.

How are your objectives going? Are you using the meetings with your induction tutor to help with the nitty gritty stuff? Keeping pupils occupied, out of mischief and ready for learning when lessons start is tough, whether they're four or 14. Can your induction tutor suggest any improvements you can make to activities and rules so that things go more smoothly? Drawing on scrap paper is a favourite, but a focus or purpose helps concentrate the mind. Are you making the most of your interactive whiteboard to show a quick DVD or video, or play a game on? As well as the standard Connect Four-type games, you could set up some games on the computers. You can use music to calm them down or inspire a bit of a bop to burn off energy.

Are you staying on top of your planning? It has to get more flexible as the term goes on, when all semblance of normality disappears into a haze of glitter. Try to be organised, finding out what needs to be done and when, but you also need to expect the unexpected because the only certainty at this time of year is uncertainty. In the days before any festival events you'll have lots of lessons cancelled, curtailed or interrupted because of practices and over-running assemblies. You're unlikely to cover as much of the curriculum as you want to so prioritise, know what to cut, and have time-fillers up your sleeve.

Teachers spend a great deal of time making resources and worksheets.

Sometimes professional pride makes them do an unnecessarily perfect job.

Keep things simple. Using ICT to make resources and worksheets will save time -and is a way of sharing and storing worksheets so that they can be adapted for future use - though sometimes handwritten versions can be quicker and just as useful. Someone in your school or at a neighbouring one probably has the resources you're looking for, so ask around, share and use, or adapt already published ones.

Although this time of year is about thinking of others, you need to look after yourself, which means eating well. Chocolate gives you a quick surge of serotonin. The more concentrated the serotonin is in the brain, the happier you feel. Try buying two chocolate advent calendars. Start one of them immediately and that should take you up to the day you break up - it's a good way of counting down the days. For a slow regular release of serotonin that's healthier, eat complex carbohydrates such as porridge.

Keep up with exercise, even when you feel tired. It releases endorphins, which make you feel happier and reduce the negative effects of stress, and it stimulates the lymphatic system to cope with germs.

There are lots of funny things that happen at school that you can get stressed about, or laugh over. Try the latter - it's so much better for you. Laughter boosts the immune system, increases the secretion of endorphins and decreases stress hormones.

The TES website poster, Edu103, manages festival fever with the help of a teaching assistant with a great singing voice: "If the class gets too excited, particularly as Christmas gets closer, she just starts singing a carol. It usually shocks the class back into 'co-operation' but, if not, at least it makes us laugh."

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