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7 Tips on Surviving the Pre-Christmas Classroom Stress

04/12/17

These tips from Emma could help you survive the Pre-Christmas classroom stress.

Christmas time is nearly here and the children’s faces are all a-glow with excitement. The shops have been full of trinkets and glitter for weeks and you’ve seen the lights and heard the first songs of the season on the radio. Before the panic sets in, here’s some advice to help you through the last few weeks of term.

1. Plan ahead

This sounds obvious, but it is so easy to get caught up in the excitement. Things can get overlooked! Look at the school calendar, and how it will impact your class. Every school is different, but if you know there are certain things that the school expects children to produce for the end of term, allow some time in your week to make sure they are done in time so you are not feeling under pressure to get them done last minute. Allow time to make: cards, calendars, a small gift for a relative, decorations and so on.

2. Plan ahead (part 2)

The other part of planning is to keep a clear record of what is going on inside school and when. This time of year is busy with Winter performance rehearsals, trips to theatres and churches. Whatever goes on is liable to change quite often close to the deadline. Keep tabs on what is happening and write everything down. Plan what has to be done to maintain your aims and objectives. Get things ready ahead of time as much as you can as you might be forced to swap things around last minute.

3. Be realistic

If you can see that children would benefit from diverting away from your plan, do so. Challenging work can be done, but sometimes you will have troubles settling children to a quiet lesson if they are overstimulated by a previous singing lesson that went on longer than planned. Prepare a good, solid and educational plan which will compliment all the fun Christmas activities you have planned. The lovely people at twinkl have great resources with Christmas themes. It might be a good idea to take advantage of a mindfulness training and do some simple yoga stretches, colouring or meditation, while listening to Christmas music (seek out the Piano Guys or Celtic Christmas for relaxing tunes).

4. Don’t forget the power of a story

I spent a brilliant day teaching through the medium of ‘The Tale of Jack Frost’ by David Melling – an engaging story about a little boy found in an enchanted forest – and covered English, Mathematics, Science and Art. Creative thought can captivate children and get them involved in learning when they can easily be distracted by the joys of the season.

5. Have stock ready

If you know you are going to be busy with special projects, such as making those cards and calendars I mentioned earlier, make sure that you have all resources ready, even if you aren’t going to use them immediately. The stock cupboard is a treasure trove at the best of times, but this is the season of glue sticks and glitter tins. So I always work out how much I might possibly need during these busy weeks. Trust me, it’s better that way.

6. Get families and children involved

The Christmas Fayre is an opportunity to invite people to the school and showcase what children have been working on, through the fantastic displays on the walls and short presentations for visitors by some of the older children. A Father Christmas, elves and Good Fairy granting wishes are appearing at a local school near me (I know, because I am one of them…). School nativities and winter performances are a chance to showcase children's talents to parents, families and guardians. Try to invite specially selected members of the community – the mayor, councillors, neighbouring school. When running these events, involve the children as much as possible. They should design the programme for the shows, and any posters, tickets and so on, even if adults have to take over at some point. It gives them a sense of ownership of what is going on around them, and a feeling that they are really a part of it all. If refreshments are going to be served, there’s no reason why some of the children shouldn't be involved in it. Front of house work (taking tickets, handing out programmes, showing people to their seats) gives children responsibility. Having children help ‘backstage’ is good too, if you are lucky enough to have lights and sound to operate.

7. Christmas music does the trick

Christmas is a magical time for children. But we can get stressed and harassed about all we need to do, about the endless sound of Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Bread Toad Rain Beer (we had to work hard to get that one right one year). Give yourself a break. Breathe. Make sure you’ve got your plans straight. Get your alternatives ready, just in case. Have a box of fun activities to keep the children happy and busy – quick makes like wooden templates (artcuts at amazon are brilliant and they also do great variety packs of Christmas shapes, stamps from the English Stamp Company (costly, but great quality, worth it in the long run) and good quality card. Have nice, calm Christmassy music ready. Look out for albums on Amazon prime if you can, as they’re free 😊 My favourites are by Harry Connick Jnr, Aled Jones (traditional, but gentle), Seth McFarlane (yes, the one from Family Guy, but he has the pipes and he can croon a tune like the best of them), Sarah McLachlan (a wonderful musician with a great voice) and The Piano Guys (purely instrumental and brilliantly entertaining). The Christmas albums by the Glee cast are not bad either as they are likely to be popular with children.

The most important thing to remember during this time of Advent is that we are in school for the children and that Christmas is a time of celebration and wonder. The greatest gift we can give to children is our time and creating experiences they’ll never forget. Looking back on my childhood, I can remember almost every nativity play. Now, it is our turn to create the memories that will stay with the next generation. Make them good ones.

Merry Christmas to you all.

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