How to Survive Christmas As An NQT
Tip 1 – Keep A Normal Timetable Going
It can be very tempting, as December rolls around, to start doing ‘Christmas’ style activities. Often the timetable is in a bit of array anyway because of practising for Nativities, preparing for Christmas fairs and decorating the school. However, the moment you choose to completely scrap the timetable, or even introduce the idea of Christmas into a Maths lessons, you are sending a signal to the children that the term is almost over. This can pretty much guarantee a lax in behaviour, even from the best behaved classes, and the level of excitement will start rising – not to come back down to earth until January!
At this time of year, the best plan is to keep Christmas under wraps for as long as possible. Keep the timetable as normal as you can and don’t introduce Christmas activities until the last week. The children will be super excited anyway with the introduction of a class advent calendar, the school Christmas tree going up and Christmas cards being given out every day. But if you can keep your lessons normal, keep the children learning and progressing as normal, you won’t feel as though it’s a wasted few weeks, and the children will respond well to the normality.
Tip 2 – Don’t Stress About Christmas Performances
Whether this is your first year or your 10th year as a teacher, the stress of preparing everything for Christmas can feel overwhelming. You probably have a Christmas performance of some sort – whether that be a Nativity or a carol concert – and as teachers we feel the pressure for the children to perform perfectly. But my top tip here – as a parent and as a Head – is DON’T!!!
Don’t worry, don’t stress and don’t expect it to go smoothly. In fact some of the best performances I’ve ever seen are the ones which go a little wrong – where the children’s personalities come through and the lines are a little crooked. I can absolutely guarantee that the parents will be delighted no matter what their children do – and there will be more than one misty eyed adult amongst the audience!
The best bet, as an NQT, and especially if there is more than one teacher involved in directing the performances, is to ask the most experienced what they would like you to do, and stick to that. The worst stress is when there are too many directors, and I’ve known many a teaching team fall out over a performance. Let one person direct – and do your best to support them!
Tip 3 – Think Outside The Box At The Christmas Party
The Christmas party is one of the most anticipated days of the year for the children. What could be better than a whole afternoon of party games with your teacher? Of course, plan in standard party games, but don’t forget to plan in a few quiet and calming games.
Sleeping Lions is a great one, and can last 20 minutes or more. The Chocolate Game is another great game – not quite so quiet but a great chance to have all the children sat down in one place for a good period of time!
Tip 4 – Keep Crafting To A Minimum
As Christmas approaches it can often seem like a great time to get some of the objectives in Art or Technology met. After all, what better time to do crafts? However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that these type of lessons will be either easy to prepare or easy to teach. Imagine 30 5 year olds with glue and glitter!
Not only do these type of lessons take an awful lot of thought and preparation, you might also want to ensure you have a number of other adults in the class to help as well. Don’t also forget to think through where you are going to store the crafts before they go home, and make sure you have some spares just in case! You can almost guarantee that there will be either a few unnamed ones or a few broken ones! It’s also probably a wise idea to avoid glitter if you can – it can be almost impossible to get out of the carpet and your cleaners won’t thank you for making their job that much harder!
Tip 5 – Prepare For The Presents!
One of the nicest things at Christmas time is to be on the receiving end of gifts from parents and children. It’s lovely to be thought of and the last day will undoubtably bring in a flurry. However, there are a couple of things that are key to do when it comes to presents.
Firstly, make a note as you open them of who gave you what – it’s a lovely gesture to send home a thank you card in January – parents really appreciate it.
Secondly, don’t make a big deal of opening them in front of the kids. For the children who haven’t brought in a gift, this can make them feel very ashamed and upset. It’s a balancing act between being thankful for the gifts that you are given, but making it clear that it’s not expected.
Finally, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you need to spend lots of time and money on giving the children a present each. They will be more than happy with a candy cane, a fun size pack of smarties or a home made biscuit. In fact the thing that is likely to make their day more than anything is to receive a Christmas card from you!
Christmas time in a Primary School is one of the nicest places to be. There is nothing quite as magical as a school as Christmas descends – but with these top tips you should make it through to the holidays with less headaches, less stress and much more enjoyment!