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Things I wish I'd known

It's the last day of term. Sue Cowley explains how to make the most of it

There's a fantastic feeling on the last day of term.Everyone is on a high: teachers, support staff, children, sometimes even the senior management team. This is particularly true at the end of this long first term, when Christmas festivities, staff parties and school plays combine to make it a real high point in the calendar.

Don't plan lots of work for the final day. For a start, some of your children will already be away, beginning their holidays early to get cheap deals (unlike us teachers who have to slog through until the last day, then pay a small fortune to escape the country). Neither you nor your students will have the energy to plough through the curriculum. Instead, get plenty of quizzes and fun activities planned, and hand over responsibility for running these to the class. Then sit back and chomp your way through a box of chocolates, giving out the occasional coffee cream to the winning team.

Although you'll be exhausted, it's worth making the effort to organise a party for your primary school class, or your form group at secondary level.

This shows the children you care about them, and is far better than trying to force them to work all day when they're not in the mood. You might bring in a few snacks for the class to share, and even run some party games such as pass the parcel or musical statues. You could persuade your fellow teachers to don fancy dress for the day, too, and show what good sports you are.

One very good reason for becoming a primary school teacher is the huge quantity of presents. Not all of them will be top of your Christmas list, but it's the thought that counts, and you might even pick up a bottle or two of wine. Don't get too excited if you work at secondary level - by this stage the children are more cynical and you'll have to quit your job to receive a bag of goodies.

No matter how tempting it seems, and how much the children beg, don't let them out of class early. Remember that you are responsible for their safety until lesson time officially ends. An early finish also disrupts the other "lessons" going on around the school, and will not earn you friends among the staff.

Above all, don't hit the booze too early in the day, and preferably not before the children leave for home. If you do, by the time the leaving speeches come around, you'll be sorely tempted to heckle, and that's definitely not a good way to complete your first term as a teacher.

Sue Cowley is an educational writer, trainer, presenter and consultant. She also supply-teaches. Her latest book, Sue Cowley's Teaching Clinic, is published by Continuum at pound;9.99. Contact:

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