On The 12 Days of Christmas my Classroom Gave to Me…
I’m going to say this in a whisper, just in case: we are nearly there. 2020 has been the hardest decade (!) in teaching so far. Across the country, the role of teaching has changed exponentially. While the country learned new jargon like ‘social distancing’ and ‘self isolation’, teachers have become accustomed to ‘blended learning’, ‘virtual teaching’, have adapted to new technologies we frankly didn’t know existed back in January, and turned everything we know about pedagogy, teaching and learning experiences on its head, sometimes with only a day’s notice. As we approach the end of a crazy term, I, for one, plan on celebrating the achievements of my children, who have continued to shine and smile in the midst of all the insanity. So, I finish the year with a light-hearted look at the maddest time of all: the run up to Christmas. And what better way for this musician to celebrate than through the most irritating Christmas song there is. I give you: The twelve days of school Christmas…
12 Deadlines incoming
Christmas or not, teaching doesn’t stop. I once described it to a non-teaching friend as “You know when you’re on a treadmill…and it keeps speeding up…and people keep throwing fruit at you? It’s kind of like that”. Only the fruit is the necessities that need to be upheld. At a time of year when most people are absent-mindedly scrolling through Amazon on their breaks or enjoying a glass of wine and a mince pie of an evening, teachers are busily continuing to plan lessons, editing Christmas concert videos, responding to parent queries on Seesaw, updating Twitter. As the famous quote goes: Teaching is for life, not just for Christmas. Or something like that.
11 Noses need wiping
Children are miniature human petri dishes. I’ve not known a year go by without catching some kind of cold, infection, or (during a particularly dark time) headlice from my class. In a year when the most socially unacceptable thing you can do is cough in public (cue shouts of “Have you been tested??”) is it just me on high alert or do the children seem to be more sniffly than usual? From a classroom where the catchphrase used to be “123, eyes on me” it’s now “Well, now you’ve sneezed, you need to wash your hands.” It’s not as catchy, but very much a necessity! If we thought social distancing with 6 year olds was tricky, trying to convince children not to investigate the contents of their noses with their fingers is nigh on impossible.
10 Children sleeping
They’re so tired. We’re so tired. Physically, mentally, emotionally. It’s been a heck of a year all round. Be kind, be mindful. And read the room. If it’s more beneficial for everyone to drop what you’re doing and have a dance party, do it. Yours and the children’s wellbeing will thank you for it. I was beating myself up the other day about leaving my own children to play in their bedrooms while I got on with some lesson planning and feeling guilty about it and a friend said “Self care is part of being a good parent”. The same is very true with teaching. Forcing children to write a non chronological report when they are mentally exhausted and not listening to a word of the input is counter-productive – far more sensible to adapt the plan and return to the tougher stuff when everyone is in the right mindset.
9 Cleaners ranting
Justifiably so, bless them. My classroom, for the last six weeks, has been a mass of glitter, glue, paint, tinsel remnants, which, despite my best efforts, still look like Christmas threw up in my room. Add to that the fact that the children now need to eat their lunches in class too due to the freezing temperatures outside and my room is permanently in need of a deep clean. Ah, the Christmas joys!
8 Teachers sinking
Life is hard right now. Teaching is hard right now. Parenting is hard right now. Some days, surviving is enough. It’s all we can expect of ourselves and others. I can’t tell you the number of times this week alone my children have told me I’m a ‘terrible mummy’ because I’m always working. At times, I feel like a ‘terrible teacher’, because my family needs me. It’s about striking a balance. And believe me, if I ever stop being so hard on myself, I’ll come to realise that 😊 As I’ve said in previous blogs, be kind to colleagues; be kind to yourselves. A cup of tea, a ‘how are you?’, even a smile as you pass in the corridor. The slightest thing can turn around someone’s day. This image comes from one of my favourite books – beautiful illustrations, gorgeous snippets to share with the children.
7 heads a-spinning
People are juggling a lot right now. Be mindful when dealing with others that we are not all ‘in the same boat’ right now. Some are in a shared boat with their family, with everything they need to stay afloat; some are in a boat alone with a hole and water seemingly pouring in. Me? Some days I’m on a yacht; others it’s a broken raft which threatens to sink at any time. Everyone is in a different situation. No one has chosen this current one.
6 Weeks of making
Possibly even longer! This year, we decided to hold an enterprise sale to raise money for our school and for the children to take part in making and selling a product to their parents. You know when you make those teaching decisions you really regret? So we decided to make this very lovely calendar, made entirely of the children’s handprints. It really it beautiful. Until we decided that the children would not only write their own dates down (rather than the handy calendar tabs, as part of our Maths learning, we learned about the months of the year in order, how many days each had etc) and the children then wrote the dates of the years. All 365. And then handprinted a design for every month of the year: January: snowflake, February: hearts, etc. They looked amazing. I have 31 children. 12 months each. We had all collectively lost the will to live by March. See also: read the room above…
5 Songs to sing
We were adamant, in the chaos of this year that Christmas celebrations for our children would absolutely not be cancelled. The Christmas performance for our team is usually a huge, all-singing, all-dancing, 90 children affair. Obviously, due to individual class bubbles, we had to scale this down, so I began by writing a light-hearted script, referencing the events of the past year with a (hopefully) comic twist i.e. the shepherds have been furloughed and the inn closed due to Tier 3 restrictions, etc. I then rewrote the words to ‘Do you want to build a snowman?’ to make it sound as though our classes were singing to each other. We then used ‘Tik Tok’ and the ‘Wipe it down’ filter to pan from some very grumpy-looking black and white uniform-wearing children to them in their Christmas jumpers saying that Christmas isn’t cancelled and nor is hope and joy! We had a sing of ‘Let it snow’ and then I wrote a poem about the true meaning of Christmas which the classes learned in sections. It was then filmed by a very clever colleague and edited together to make a production of sorts for the parents to see. At time of writing, the concert is due to air on YouTube – hoping it’s a lovely Christmas treat!
4 Misspelled words
It doesn’t matter how many times you write ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Nadolig Llawen’ (Welsh second language school!) on a white board, it’ll still be misspelled on at least 15 Christmas cards by the children. I swear I could stick a Post-It to my forehead and they’d still copy it wrong!
3 Glitter pens
I swear, the second the glitter makes its annual pilgrimage from my class cupboard, I use the phrase “NOW it’s Christmas!” Love it or hate it, glitter makes it onto every Christmas card…and surface…and anything else that comes into contact with it.
2 Missing gloves
Actually, this is misleading. It implies children are thoughtful enough to lose a whole pair, rather than lose a glove individually. Make no mistake, they also lose coats (with worrying regularity given the current weather), cardigans and jumpers (why are they never named?!) and occasionally (trust me, it has been known) trousers. I honestly still cannot explain that phenomenon. Given that the child was allegedly wearing them at time of disappearance and, to the best of my knowledge, the garment was never seen again.
And a teacher who just wants a cup of tea.
It’s not a blog of mine without referencing caffeine somewhere. Enough said.
Happy Christmas – make time to relax with families and friends. School will still be there in January; and the children will be refreshed, excited and ready to learn after the Christmas break. And we’ll be there too – teaching remotely, virtually, blended, but teaching. What we do best.