After 18 christmases in schools I think I may be finally experiencing a christmas miracle. With only 8 and a half working days to go we are a cool, calm, collected and healthy Primary team. The likes of which I have never seen in my current school or any past work place. Knowing that this is quite an accomplishment I feel the need to share why I think we are in this position in the hope that in the future peace and love may reign throughout the land for all Primary schools!
So here are my top 5 tips to keeping the school sane at christmas.
1. Over communicate
At this time of year it’s not just our professional life that’s busy but our personal life too. It really is this busiest time of year for most people and it’s inevitable that we will forget things, even if they’ve been written in our diary or stuck on our classroom wall for weeks. So my philosophy is remind, remind and remind again. Rather than being the pedantic leader that I may have been in the past and tutting ” I put it on the calendar a month ago” or ” Well I sent a parent newsletter two weeks ago” and becoming stressed I am now at peace with the fact that at this time of year people’s heads are full to bursting and for school life to proceed smoothly I do need to repeat myself. At the end of the day it only takes 5 minutes to write a daily diary or send a reminder email to parents and I’ve learnt this is well worth the effort because it takes a lot longer to placate a parent who has missed their child’s performance or a stressed teacher who forgot a deadline.
2. Forgive and be quick to make amends
At this time of year more mistakes are made than any other. Parents and teachers are tired. Children are tired and even worse, over excited. At every turn there is a potential for disaster, so forgive. Sometimes that also means seek forgiveness yourself and admit you’ve made mistakes during this time aswell. I”ve also learnt that at this time of year as a head it’s worth taking the blame ocassionally, even when it wasn’t your fault, just to keep the much needed peace. If mistakes are made by individuals find a way to fix them as quickly as possible, don’t hesitate to call a parent who may have missed their child’s end of term achievement assembly and reschedule where possible. Some things are too important to spend time blaming people for! As for the children, yes they still need the school sanctions when they misbehave but don’t let tiredness cloud judgements and make us overract. Tired and over excited children rarely make good choices!
3. Do not take your eye of the ball
This year, more than ever, we have embraced the work to the end rule. The work is enjoyable and creative BUT it is not all filler no killer. In fact there is no filler. We have produced more art work than in usual weeks due to our Art Exhibition and Christmas Art display in the entrance hall but other than that we are still teaching the normal curriculum and the children are still following the usual routine. For me this is essential. This year there are no big christmas performances but small scale singing and dancing assemblies, all of which have been practised in the classroom when there has been a spare moment and the singing and dance nature fits exactly with school objectives. There has been no fighting for stage time as the expectation is only one session on the stage before the dress rehearsal. More importantly being deliberately low key has meant the eradication of competition between teachers. In the past our class performances were legendary, fuelled by the desire to produce the most elaborate christmas performance. However during this period the stress levels of the staff also became legendary and the overall experience of the children did not impact enough on their learning to excuse the amount of subject time missed.
4. Have fun
With the work to the end rule and the scaling down of performances it would seem that christmas and the fun aspect of this time of year has been forgotten. This is not the case and would make me very sad to think that the children were being denied school christmas memories. We’ve just been very selective about our fun and made sure that at the same time as having fun we are also modelling, and ensuring the children are displaying, our first term’s values. So our final weeks activities have all been linked to our values of charity, empathy and compassion. With respect and good manners never being forgotten. Our fun has included:
- A bring and buy sale for charity
- A maths quiz
- An art exhibition for charity
- Christmas Art
- Choir singing in old people’s homes
- A “pay it forward” christmas campaign where small acts of kindness are recorded by the recipient on paper hearts and stuck on a central display area to serve as a constant reminder about the importance of kindness at this time of year.
- One dedicated Christmas activity day
- Final day of term cinema trip
- Staff Bake Off for charity
- Christmas jumper day for all
5. Love one another
This shouldn’t take much explanation but at my school we really care about each other and people’s emotional well being. Here are the little things that make the difference at this time of year:
- Don’t just make yourself a cup of tea but make one for others aswell.
- Make usual weekly tasks a bit special – for us it was a christmas decorating staff meeting with cava and cakes and time for a chat
- Hold special fun events as listed above
- Give staff a christmas present- it’s not very exciting but all staff receive a christmas hamper as a thank you for the term’s work
- Say thank you and recognise individual efforts
- Ensure plenty of cake is in the staffroom during the last two weeks of term.
- Smile at all times- positivity is the best gift at christmas and it’s catching. This is especially true for SMT!