Miss, can't we just put a film on?
You know how it is at this point of the Christmas term: you’ve been slogging away for the best part of eight solid weeks, give or take a snow day if you’re lucky – and even then, you’ve stayed in your PJs marking, with barely even the time to build an effigy of your Headteacher and throw a snowball at it. You’ve lost the concept of a Weekend. The word ‘Weekend’ is foreign to you. It sounds like something you used to know. Maybe it moved to Australia for a better work-life balance.
You’ve educated the HECK out of those young minds; you’ve done the OFSTED dance with more perfect lifts and twists than Torvill and Dean; you’ve given all your classes assessments just so you can get a moment’s peace in your day. (The blissful sound of an hour’s silence-except-for-pens-scratching comes at the price of about ten hours’ marking, but ssssh. You’ve got a schedule that’s packed fuller than a spoilt child’s fifth Christmas stocking and IT’S QUIET NOW.)
You, dear poor, tired educator, are on. Your. Freaking. Knees.
It’s at this point that the teacher’s best friend usually comes out. No, I’m not referring to a secret stash of 'present wine' stored away in the stock cupboard. Nor am I referring to some sort of talking hybrid photocopier/coffee machine in the staff lounge that dispenses much-needed caffeine, worksheets and pithy life advice.
I’m talking about videos.
Yes, you’ve been trying to explain the protracted plotline and complicated context of a dry Victorian novel for eight weeks, but you’ve promised your classes that if they just stick with it, they’ll get to watch the low-budget 1980s film version on YouTube as a treat. That’s assuming that the internet is playing ball, of course. If not, it’ll be hangman and pictionary on the whiteboard while Mariah Carey warbles about her very specific Christmas list in the background.
Videos are the manna from heaven, the pre-Christmas perk, the blessed reminder of all that is good in the world – for staff and students alike. As well as providing a bit of relaxed classroom cheer, they serve a useful role as a reward for hard work. They can even be educational: in the case of film adaptations from novels, students don’t tend to need too much cajoling to show off some knowledge of how the film is different, better or worse than the book. Stick a worksheet with that question in front of them and it all becomes legit.
Sometimes there’s a bit of negotiating that has to happen between teacher and students: you might be very keen to show your class the moody, smouldering BBC version of Macbeth featuring a young Ian McKellan; they might be desperate to watch 'Transformer VII - The Predicatable Explosion'. The art, of course, is finding a creative compromise that still links, however tenuously, to some form of educational purpose. Otherwise, why did any of you bother getting out of your pyjamas?
Some subjects lend themselves more easily to passing off an end-of-term video as educational than others. English and Drama are the winners here, which I’m sure is of great comfort to English teachers as they drown under relentless tidal waves of essays. RE and History also benefit from video season, allowing the story and religion behind Christmassy concepts discussed to come to life. Maths and PE may be slightly trickier, but where there’s a will, there’s usually a Netflix account.
So enjoy your last week of term: may it be full of videos, sweets and OFSTED inspectors stuck in the snow.
Looking for a an eductional and Christmassy English lesson? This free English Language lesson will help get you and your GCSE group through the last week. Not in a particularly Christmassy mood? Try this free A Christmas Carol lesson, with a focus on Scrooge - Bah Humbug!