How to Survive The Christmas Term

Being a teacher ranks in the top 3 happiest jobs, alongside gardeners and PAs according to nine different surveys from the Cabinet Office, Career Bliss, Gallop and The Guardian, to name a few.  How can it be then, that researchers from the University of Liverpool collected data on stress levels from 25,352 employees working in 24 different occupations and teaching and social work appeared in the top three for both poor psychological wellbeing and physical ill health? It is possible to have job satisfaction in a career that causes so much stress?  Well, here at EduStaff, we think there is, and the reason? Reward. 


"Teaching is one of the most rewarding careers available, and in December this feeling of job satisfaction is amplified as pupils embrace all the fun and festivities that come with the Christmas season. However, as with everything in life, things can get a bit stressful at times, and with the added pressures of things like Christmas plays and over excited children, even the best teaching staff can find it challenging to stay on top of things. This is why we collated a list of stress busting techniques to ensure the festive season runs smoothly for teachers, and their pupils."– Nigel Horne, lead consultant at EduStaff


The reason that teachers can manage their intense workload and 52-hour average week, is because they have one of the most rewarding careers in today’s society.  In fact, research, accumulated over the last three decades, has suggested that one of the main reasons for people entering the profession is the fact it is socially meaningful and therefore enjoyable. (Reid and Caudwell, 1997) 


It takes a special kind of individual to become a teacher, someone who thrives under pressure and who is strong enough so that they believe the benefits outweigh the stresses.“


The best thing about schools is that you are dealing with little people. They have their own personalities and, being a teacher, you are lucky enough to watch them flourish and open up to you more as each week passes. You are in the fortunate position of being able to improve their experience of education.” Ruel Smith – Teaching Assistant


Christmas is a particularly stressful time for teachers in both primary and secondary education – dealing with excitable behaviour as well as the pressures to meet core subject objectives is a challenge to say the least.  But do not fear. We have done our research and collated a list of techniques that teachers from near and far have adopted in order to manage their pupils and stress levels over the festive period.



One of the most frustrating things about teaching is wanting to do a good job but not being able to find the time to do it. The drain of having to mark 20-30+ students work daily, as well as the ever-looming responsibility of multiple lesson-plans to engage and educate pupils in innovative ways. To-do lists are an easy way of getting your priorities in order. To determine what to do first you can use the prioritising box matrix:


Time Management

If you don’t have time to do something, there is no shame in telling people firmly and politely that you won’t be able to do it. Whether it’s your head of department, or even your pupils – both of them will respect you for telling the truth.


Time Out

Have some ‘you-time’. It is important that you maintain a healthy balance between work and your personal life. You could go for a run, put your feet up on the sofa or treat yourself to a massage, because we can guarantee you’ll probably need it.



The pressure of being held personally responsible for the grades and learning progression of your pupils is not for the faint-hearted. It requires a huge amount of skill and management to be able to control the levels of stress you will experience and endure on a daily basis. Remember to pull yourself away and tell yourself that all you can do is your best and, at the end of the day, it’s a job. Your health and wellbeing, is much more important and will essentially determine the quality of work you produce.



No matter how well a school is run or how well a day is planned, the excitement of jolly old St Nick is always going to send the children crazy, it’s unavoidable. For small children, the very mention of Christmas is equivalent to putting them on a drip of liquid Haribo. If possible, avoid mentioning Santa and his four-legged entourage until the end of November.


Christmas Concerts

There are many things to consider for the Christmas production; first and foremost is deciding what play to do. It’s not as easy as simply choosing the classic Nativity play due to the fact we live in a more multi-cultural world and therefore many different religious beliefs are now within the classroom. In order to ensure all pupils can be involved, it would be wise to choose a play that can encompass the main themes of Christmas, without specifically focusing on the typical Christian aspects. For example; family, food, love, sharing etc.


Craft Attack

There will be more glitter, more PVA glue and more scissors flying around the classroom than Neil Buchanan used in every Art Attack filmed to date. This is by no means an opportunity for teachers to relax. However, you can always find a learning objective for fun stuff; plus you probably won’t have to assess your children on their Christmas tree decorating abilities later that day!



With Christmas comes Christmas cards. There are always a few children who don’t receive any cards from their fellow students – which can be extremely upsetting. This is followed by Christmas games; musical chairs, sleeping lions, musical bumps. You have to remember that you only have one pair of eyes, and guaranteed you will experience “HE/SHE MOVED” or “HE/SHE CHEATED”. The best thing to do is stick to your guns and not even acknowledge the discussion.


Winter Wonderland

Snow, ice and everything nice. Or not? Not to be a scrooge, but it’s widely understood that the majority of injuries and tears around the Christmas period, are caused by ice and snow related accidents, whether it’s a snowball to the face or slipping on a frozen puddle.


Christmas Party

This point has nothing to do with your pupils but it does concern your job and how you are perceived within that position. You will probably receive an invite to the staff Christmas party and this will most likely include alcohol. Just a few pointers; don’t get drunk, don’t talk about work, don’t gossip and don’t hit on the head teacher – or any other member of staff, come to that.


Fact File:

Ø  97% believe school should be as much about encouraging a love of learning as exam results (Survey by Guardian Teacher Network: more than 5,000 teachers responded (nearly 1,500 from academies and free schools) – designed to ascertain how happy teachers are in their jobs, and the reasons for their discontent or satisfaction)

Ø  Half of teachers say they simply want more time to prepare for their lessons

Ø  Researchers from the University of Liverpool collected data on stress levels from 25,352 employees working in 24 different occupations. Teaching and social work are in the top three for both poor psychological and physical ill health caused by stress.

Ø  Workload stress is by far the most important factor in making teachers consider leaving the profession (76%) – workload increases around Christmas which leads to stress

Ø  Teachers work an average of 52 hours a week

Ø  83% of teachers claimed they ‘loved their job’ in a study of 2,000 in comparison to the average worker (59% are happy at work)

Ø  Engineers, teachers and nurses found to be the happiest jobs in the world (analysis carried out by the Guardian – of 9 different surveys)

Further reading:



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