So, this is your first Christmas in a Primary School? Here are a few words to the wise.
You may think you have got the hang of school routines but you will suddenly find them whisked away from you. Around now, most schools shift to PSCT (Primary School Christmas Time). While it may be formally declared via a revised hall timetable, it can sometimes only be detected by the appearance of some telltale signs. Indicators that you have entered this time zone may include;
- arriving at the hall, with your class ready for PE to find it full of shepherds
- playtime inexplicably lengthened, shortened, rescheduled or cancelled altogether
- a colleague unexpectedly exclaiming “I forgot to order the ****ing calendars!”
A whole host of previously unknown to you traditions will also appear, such as the school Christmas dinner, carol singing in the community, the Christmas Fair and Christmas parties! Also don’t forget the Christmas trip, the class advent calendar, making Christmas cards, decorations and calendars…
You will do well to accept that disruption is inevitable and make sure you have a plan B. (Many schools deploy a Christmas activity booklet for this very reason. I’m no fan of worksheets but it is a lifesaver in the nativity rehearsal period, trust me).
While some children thrive in the bustle of the Christmas run-up, many can find the lack of structure distressing or confusing. Be prepared that some children will need extra support and try to keep to your normal routine as much as humanly possible.
Find out early what the school protocol on class presents is and stick to it. Keep the budget low, it is all too easy to overspend! Consider buying a whole class present such as a game for wet play or some books for the book corner. Even a modest budget of £1 a head could buy five or six great quality books your class will enjoy and benefit from for the rest of the year. Good condition games can often be found in charity shops for a fraction of the new price. If you like the idea of giving the children individual presents, these editable bookmarks from Twinkl are a good option.
It’s not Christmas without a bit of glitter, is it? Never ever ever leave a full pot of glitter unattended. It will end in tears, probably yours. Decant it into smaller pots and work on large pieces of paper so that glitter can easily be tipped back into a pot by picking up the paper and making it into an impromptu glitter slide.
By Inkwina (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
The Christmas performance is always a big deal and can be very stressful for staff.
Don’t expect your children to turn into the Royal Shakespeare Company; it’s a school nativity, not a professional performance! It might be difficult when no one has learnt their words and they can’t remember the tune to “Silent Night” but keep in your mind the fact that you are making precious memories for your children and their families. It really will be alright on the night.
Some children genuinely hate the spotlight. For younger children, make sure they can be in an inconspicuous spot, with a trusted adult nearby. For the older ones, a back stage role such as running the lighting or music can give them a chance to participate. Do your utmost to make sure the adults can see their children when they are performing, and mike them up if possible. Parents naturally want to see and hear their own child!
Christmas is a magical time to be in primary school, enjoy it. It may feel like you aren’t getting much done, but the experiences the children are getting are are than worth it! Don’t be afraid to ask more experienced staff for help, they’ve all been where you are. And, once it’s over, you do get a two week holiday to recover.