Year 6 are currently working very hard in English, Maths & Reasoning, towards the Independent School entrance examinations in January 2020. Even those who are not actually sitting exams are fully involved in the process as the knowledge, skills, independence, resilience and exam techniques are necessary life skills for the future and will enable them to get into higher sets in Year 7. I recently shared with them, the fact that some adults could not even attempt the tasks they are required to complete (under the pressure of time), especially in their verbal reasoning skills. Reasoning skills are the true measure of innate intelligence and Year 6 have got that by the 'bucketful'!
Whilst the exam preparation continues, Christmas is also in full swing at Brabyns. I've experienced 'quite a number' of Christmases at Brabyns and despite a few 'tweaks' here and there, it's celebrated much the same as it has always been. It is at this point, I make no apologies for my Blog not containing any academic quotes; references to deep seated philosophies and theories about education; new advances in technology; latest government trends and legislations, progress and attainment data or my personal opinions on all these. The only quote I will give you is "It's Christmas!" (Noddy Holder 1973).
At Brabyns, we try to keep the joy and traditions of Christmas alive - British Values through and through! Our many Brabyns’ families will have different views, beliefs and opinions but our Brabyns’ Christmas is here to stay and the Christmas Story - The Nativity - is alive and relevant for all the Christians in the world today and respected by all.
Each teacher at Brabyns is allowed to decorate their room in any way they want. At this point, I must apologise to Year 6 as at end of November I told them, I did not 'do' Christmas in my room. Year 6, I was only kidding! I hope you all enjoyed having your own light up Santas to decorate your desks; our understated tree and the chocolate and candy stick advent calendar treats; not to mention the artistically draped tinsel over our class library books.
An age old British tradition at Christmas is going to see the pantomime or a show. I have been lucky enough to attend a wide variety of these and have seen how they have added to the children's experiences of the performing arts and brought them so much pleasure (most of the time!).Despite the occasional 'dire' performance by a ‘past their sell by date’ famous soap star or two in pantomimes, I have been lucky enough to accompany the children at Christmas time to see Tom's Midnight Garden and the Snowman at the Library Theatre; Oliver at the Bolton Octagon; The Nutcracker, Stomp and Cats at the Lowry; Joseph at Buxton Opera House; Journey around the World with the Halle at the Bridgewater Hall; plus the aforementioned pantomime experiences at the Plaza, Romiley Forum and Buxton Opera House.
Pantomimes form the majority of the children's theatre experiences at Christmas and they get to do all the things we discourage throughout the year: stamping, shouting, booing, singing silly, rather rude songs 'really' loudly and bouncing up and down on their seats! The features of each pantomime always remain the same: good triumphs over evil - if only the world was like that! The characters are similar too, with the downtrodden, idiots, bullies, comedians, heroes and that loyal bunch of villagers who just keep appearing in ‘different’ scenes, in ‘different’ costumes, resolutely trying to react appropriately to what is going on around them. Personally, my favourite is the idiot - aka - the pantomime dame! I love the innuendo in their humour, which luckily goes over the children's heads at times, their visual presence with their outlandish costumes and just the overall silliness of their behaviour - pure escapism!
Staff involved in organising these trips take on a huge responsibility - I know I have done it in the past! They have to book tickets, organise transport, sort payments, seating, refreshments, staffing, risk assessments and so much more. It's always a relief to sit down in the theatre and let the actors take over the entertainment of the children for an hour or two. However, that's never the case I am afraid! As staff keep a watchful eye on the children and another eye on the show we are often interrupted by one or other of the statements below:
"I need a wee!" (You've only just been.)
"They are kicking my seat!" (Please don't do that it's annoying.)
"That lady's head is too big, I can't see! (Decapitation is just not an option!)
“Aargh! I don't like it!" (Let's just sit in the foyer shall we?)
"I've spilled my drink!” (Where are those emergency tissues?)
"I've dropped my sweets! (I know, I can hear them rolling on the sloped floor towards the stage!)
"When is it over?" (After the wedding scene.)
"When is the wedding scene?" (In about an hour and a half!)
"I need another wee! (You have only just been!)
"I feel sick!" (Have a sip of water.)
"I am going to be sick!" (Now that's the worst one!)
As a staff, before the show, during the show, in the interval and at the end, we are always quite ‘proud’ as we witness the behaviours of 'some' children from 'some' other schools. With only the odd exception (which is soon rectified) our children are so well behaved and we often receive positive comments from fellow theatre goers and staff who praise our children for their behaviour. When it's time for some children to go up on stage, once again, we feel proud to see the smart Brabyns’ uniform and a couple of our children chatting confidently with one of the characters; joining in a song and happily receiving a bag of sweets as a thank you.
As parents, you do not share the school pantomime / Christmas show visits with your children but it is lovely when we all come together, on the last day of the Autumn term, at All Saints Church and celebrate Christmas. Again, over the years the format of this celebration has remained quite similar. All the hard work and practices the children do beforehand can be witnessed in an amazing performance on the day. Whatever, your beliefs, you cannot fail to be touched by the 'back of your neck tingling' songs; the cuteness of the costumed infants, and the completed nativity scene as the retelling of the story ends. This scene has a worldwide message of expectation, celebration, love and hope for the future upon the birth of a new child.
However, the saying ' never work with children and animals' has been proved over the years and no doubt it will again this year. It's inevitable - there will be a sheep picking its nose; a King tripping over its cloak or not being able to see because its crown is over its eyes; Mary swinging baby Jesus by the foot - yes just one foot ; Mary leaving her place by the crib and it being taken over by a sheep who then won’t move; Joseph abandoning the new mother and child to go and talk with his friend the donkey; angels with ‘wonky’ halos and tangled wings; an oxen who wants to go and sit on its mum’s knee or an innkeeper who insists there's no room at all - not even in the stable at the back – despite what the script says. Yes - I have seen them all and more besides but not one of them take away the message of expectation, celebration, love and hope.
At the end of term, Christmas at Brabyns is packed away until next year. It always seems strange to 'remove' Christmas before it has actually happened on 25th December. However, we must leave our rooms as a blank canvas for the new term: Spring 2020!
Whatever you believe, however you celebrate, wherever you are and whoever you are with - have a lovely Christmas!