It’s cold, the weather’s a bit yuk, but hey, it’s nearly Christmas!
I’ve spent the day in a primary school that was Christmas crazy – tinsel and paperchains on everything and everyone. Even the head looked uncannily like a Christmas tree!
The school is in a deprived area, high unemployment and low aspirations abound amongst the local inhabitants. Most of the children I taught (I use that term loosely, seeing as how it’s nearly the end of term) will not be receiving much this year. Some won’t receive anything. I was warned when I went in not to ask the children what they would be doing over the holidays as a few were terrified at the prospect of the total lack of routine at home, compared with that of being in school.
The children were told in assembly that Father Christmas would be coming into school and they would get a chance to meet him after lunch. Cynical Year 6s, too cool for primary school, sat up and took notice, before looking around surreptitiously, hoping no one had seen them letting the mask slip. The Reception children had to be reminded to be quiet otherwise father Christmas would not be visiting their classroom – he counted noisy as naughty. This had the unfortunate consequence of rendering them utterly silent throughout the short prayer and song.
One worried child came up to me at break and confided that he was scared he wouldn’t get a present as he had been naughty that morning. I asked him what he had done, and managed to keep a straight face when he said he had poured salt into his brother’s orange juice at breakfast. He assured me it was meant to be a joke, but his brother hadn’t taken it well. I assured him that it probably wouldn’t affect his ‘Santa Score’, but it would be best not to do it again. He assured me he probably wouldn’t – not because he thought it was unfair to his brother, but because he didn’t want his brother pouring salty orange juice over him in revenge again!
Lunch came and went, the children kept asking “Is he here yet?” and looking anxiously up at the sky. Until someone said they’d seen him pulling up outside in a Ford Focus.
At last he was here! Every child in the class received a gift. And every child said thank-you. Unprompted. Well, maybe just a few…
As Father Christmas got up to leave, one of the children asked him if he was real. “Do you believe I’m real?” asked Father Christmas. As the child nodded, he added “Then I am.”
The rest of the afternoon was spent in making more paperchains and Christmas decorations that were 90% glitter. I pity the cleaners!
Word went round that the staff should all go to the staffroom at the end of the day, supply included. Too late for Ofsted, no one was quite sure why the summons was issued. But, as I went into the staffroom, we were all handed a mince pie and a glass of (non-alcoholic) punch – our gift from Father Christmas!
I’ve had a fantastic day. I’ve worked with great people who worked exceptionally hard to make sure all the children enjoyed themselves. They ensured no one was left out, and that, at least for today, all the children in school had the chance to be excited about the Christmas festival.
The children were excited and, even where they were too old and cynical for the Father Christmas myth, went along with it for the sake of the younger ones.
I was there for one day, but I was made to feel part of a great day, thanks to both the children and the staff. It was a long drive and I nearly turned down the booking, but I’m so glad I didn’t.
As I left the staffroom, I overheard two of the teachers discussing the day’s Father Christmas, “I’ve never seen him so happy, he’s normally as cheery as a funeral.”
“Well, you can’t be unhappy here – not today anyway.”
I smiled as I left, because yes, this is why I teach.