Energise your school community with Advent Angels!

Alex Fairlamb

Alex Fairlamb is an associate assistant headteacher and specialist leader in education (SLE), working in the north east of England. Prior to her school career, she worked in the Education department of a living museum as a community learning coordinator, where she focused on the impact of immersive learning. Alex earned her Masters in Education, where she specialised in immersive learning and the process of innovative change by researching a ‘Hidden History’ project-based learning curriculum model. Her specialism is creativity in the classroom.

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Image credit: Pixabay. Image credit: Pixabay.

Christmas is a great opportunity to take the time to be thankful for those who are part of our learning community, and to channel our festive spirit and cheer into contributing to a positive environment full of thought and goodwill. At our school, all of our members of staff (teaching and non-teaching) are invited to take part in our ‘Advent Angel’ initiative. After signing up, volunteers are secretly and randomly given the name of another member of staff who is also taking part. Our only caveat is that we aim to make sure that it is not someone with the same department or office, so colleagues across the school have the opportunity to learn something new about someone, which builds into our community ethos.

During a one week period, staff then will try to think of different thoughtful, fun or creative ways to make that week special for their given person. Our staff are wonderfully kind and giving; we do say “The gestures, actions and gifts need not cost anything at all.” that the gestures, actions and gifts of that week need not cost anything at all. It is the thought that goes into it, and the moment that they create for the person is at the heart of what we aim to do (if staff do wish to spend money, we suggest a £5 cap).

HLTA Debs Hudson shows off her Advent Angel.

Over the years that Advent Angel has been taking place, it’s been amazing to see the buzz that it brings to the school – both to staff and students. Advent Angels can either do daily things, a few things or one thing. Full ownership is given to each Advent Angel. Such gestures have included:

  • A cup of tea and biscuit delivered to a member of staff during their break duty.
  • A class spontaneously breaking into a Christmas carol after the register (orchestrated by the Advent Angel).
  • A tree decoration to hang with a picture of the person and their loved ones inside.
  • A specially made Christmas CD mix.
  • A homemade candle with a festive ginger scent to burn.
  • Some festive cookie cutters so that the person can make some Christmas treats.

What’s so heart-warming about Advent Angels is the thought and effort that goes into what each person does for the other. Staff really take the time to find out a little more about that person from secret sources like other members of staff and students.

It’s a great to sometimes see the investigative work and imaginative ways that staff will drop questions about certain things in front of the person who they are being the Advent Angel for, in the hope of gaining more information about them without being caught out...

Ooh I don’t know about you, but I love a Scandi style theme to my Christmas decorations. Which style are you partial to?” A rather unusual question to ask when normally you’ve previously traded conversations about how you’re incorporating numeracy into the curriculum, or would they mind if you took the last chocolate digestive from the staff room break-time tin!

It really does create a magical vibe around the school. Staff excitedly discuss gestures that they have received, as well as sharing their appreciation of the thought shown by another. The students love it too, as “The students get to be secret deliverers and participants.”they get to be secret deliverers and participants. It’s great to model to them the positivity of goodwill and thought in an upbeat atmosphere, it really helps to raise their festive cheer too. What I love about Advent Angels the most if the enthusiasm that staff show towards it and it reminds us of how fortunate we are to work within such a community.

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