Monday, 5 December 2011

For those who are left behind

Today is the day of our school Christmas concert. We hold it at the local Medieval church in the evening, but the morning entails walking the entire school down in a big crocodile (that’s about 200 children)  to the church for a dress rehearsal.  There are always some who aren’t participating because their families can’t be arsed to get them there in the evenings which is sad as those are the ones who generally really want to participate. One year a tiny 7 year old appeared at the church door in tears having arrived by taxi and said, “My mum said just send me home by taxi when this rubbish is finished.” How heartbreaking is that? But at least he got to go. Last year some teachers arranged to pick up students who wanted to attend, but had  parents who couldn’t be bothered. At EVERY house the mum was dressed in her disco dolly best and ready for a night out at the pubs. That is the worst because those children who can’t come in the evening have been practicing their singing and poetry reciting and so are allowed to go for the dress rehearsal so they can at least see the show.

We also tend to have a large group of children who cannot participate in the Christmas show as they are not Christian--primarily Muslim,  but also a few Sikh and Hindu. Although some children from other faiths still take part in the Christmas show. For Muslims, Jesus is revered as a Prophet and so there is a connection with Christianity (although it is interesting to note that Christians don’t have the same reverence for Mohammad) so some less orthodox families allow their children to take part in Christian activities.  This year we had 18 children who were abstaining for religious reasons and so we made the decision to keep them at school and do alternate activities. Because I work with EAL and many of these children are under my care I volunteered to stay behind.

We ended up with a few extra--one boy terrified of churches (he thinks they are haunted because of the graveyards) who would not stop sobbing as they tried to leave and one latecomer who had been to the doctors but for the most part they were Asian Muslim children.

We spent the first hour in the ICT suite playing computer games. I let them log on to anything “educational” so most did art on Colour Magic or went to CBBC (children’s BBC website that has tie ins to children’s shows as well as learning games) but a few girls asked me if they could play some Islamic games and took me to a website that had stories about Mohammad and matching games in Arabic. They were so keen I did not want to stop them because I remember what it was like be a child discovering my faith. Others watched videos of historical events from a children’s history programme--I had an interesting talk with a child about Jessie Owens.  Lastly a group of girls all played hangman in French! They found a French games website and played trying to guess words from French we are learning in school.

Then we all went outside for a run around in the *freezing* cold to get some fresh air and eat our snacks. Then back into the hall to play some games. We did a relay race where you had to run to the other end of the hall, put on a coat, hat, scarf and gloves then run back, strip it all off and the next person has to put it all on before they can run down the other end and take it off for the next person to wear. That warmed up us! We also did some drama where they mimed various activities (playing football, dancing, riding a horse, skiing, playing tennis etc) and then played a game called “What are you doing?“ where the suggestion you make is the one the next person has to act out. Much hilarity ensued when boys were asked to dance like a ballerina. Next we played Spider Says--much like Simon Says only with my favourite animal in the title.  

By this time I was glancing at the clock--it was 11:30 and the rest of the school wasn’t back yet and I was running out of ideas. There were lots of suggestions but no one could agree so I divided all the kids into 3 groups and one played Spider Says on the stage, another played “I went to the shops and I bought…” which is a cumulative memory game and the third group played the “What are you doing” game followed by “I’m giving you” which is passing imaginary objects (something heavy/soft/sharp/hot etc) and the person has to react appropriately as they are given the gift.

Then *thankfully* our head dinner lady came in and said they could all go to lunch early so out they toddled and I went in to enjoy my lunch. About 5 minutes later the rest of the school retuned and the teachers all came back frazzled looking--as usual no one has bothered to time this so the show runs way longer than an hour. But I  had the pleasantest morning with the kids I stayed with. There were many complaints among staff that Christian children are allowed to visit the Mosque and Gurdwara  (Sikh temple) but other religions cannot participate in Christian activities. I don’t know how I feel about this--I love living in a country where many religions live and work side by side in harmony. And I think a person needs to be free to worship as they want without being hassled--but I also know that most of our Muslim/Sikh/Hindu children have an active religious life and will do seasonal and holiday activities with their own faiths. They will celebrate Eid or Diwali at other times of the year and so get the experience of celebration and joy. It is the white “Christian” children who have parents that can’t be bothered who really miss out because they will not have any other religious activities to experience and celebrate.

Since I stayed with those who were left behind I will need to go tonight to see the concert for myself. Luckily, we live right next door to the Medieval church so I can pop over to watch. It will be filled with sweet carol singing, badly chanted poems and lots of fidgeting of angelic children with crooked halos. Spiderman would say this precisely the reason to stay away, but for me it is exactly the reason to go.   


  1. Bah, humbug to SpiderMan! I agree wholeheartedly that those are precisely the reasons to go! How I wish I were there! I love your school's children's programs.

  2. I would love to be there to go the the Medieval church, hear the singing, smile at the poems and fidgeting, and generally feel invigorated by activities of the children. Keep up the great work. Miss seeing you.