Once every few years, when there's a whiff on an inspection in the air, the school decides it had better hold a Christmas concert. Such an event ticks a lot of boxes on an inspector's list, I'm sure, from the one about having a sense of school community to the other one about including even those who are completely tone deaf in musical ventures.
Therefore, this year we are having a Christmas concert. Such an event is seen to be beyond the abilities of the music teacher, and it's true that his nerves are shot to pieces after a long term of children going mad with percussion instruments at close range for five hours a day, five days each week. So the joy of seeing all his hard work come together in a festive display of music and harmony has been denied him, and instead the professionals have been brought in - a husband and wife team whose job it is to wade into schools with sheet music and donkey costumes and co-ordinate school concerts and nativity plays.
This Christmas concert is taking precedent over everything else. Coursework not done? The Year 11 slackers wave their excuse notes to say they were too busy practising the triangle or guitar. Class half empty? Year 8 are having their costumes fitted which is far more important than getting an education. Third cover period of the week? Of course, the teacher is painting scenery and can't possibly teach at this important time.
That wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the additional guilt trips laid down upon us. If you're not doing something in your own time for the Christmas Concert then your future is probably screwed already. There are teachers staying up into the wee small hours sewing sequins onto angel wings, other staff ferreting in every charity shop in the region for suitable props, whilst yet others are attending weekend rehearsals - not for the pleasure of singing, but to keep the hordes of over-excited children under control when they're not needed on stage.
When you become a teacher, you don't know half of what you're letting yourself in for. Perhaps it's one of the highlights of the year in primary school - in fact, I'm sure it is. The excitement of little children, the making of decorations and cards, the rehearsing for the nativity play (or non-denominational alternative) - all of this is part of the fun in primary school. But I didn't chose to be a primary teacher - for some reason I just can't remember now, I chose secondary, which gives me the right to be grumpy and moan in a jaded way about long hours, too much marking and bad behaviour. I shouldn't also have to whinge about what should be a lovely sparkly time of year too. But when I think of the sweat shop labours of my colleagues when they should be decorating their own trees with their own children, I suddenly feel like Scrooge.