The holiday season can be such a wonderful time for educators and students, alike. Everyone is excited about the upcoming festivities, gifts are being exchanged between friends and co-workers, and everyone is full of an abundance of energy as they get into the spirit of the season.
As teachers know, the holiday season can also be challenging and, quite frankly, exhausting! All of that joyous energy can also be hard to channel when students are off-task and buzzing about gifts and current happenings. Some of you may even be marking down the days left until the students are released for the long holiday break!
Instead of feeling overwhelmed and a little bit Grinchy this holiday season, I went to some fellow co-workers of mine and compiled a list of their best tips to get to (and through) the holiday season. Enjoy!
Survival Tip #1: Lighten the Severity of the Topics
Your students are distracted, at best, the last few days before break. Instead of trying to cram in the remaining few standards to meet the “halfway” mark by midyear, reflect on a standard you covered earlier in the year that didn’t take so well with your students. Did they only kind of understand compound sentences? Were the details of dividing fractions a bit muddled for a few kids? I know you don’t want to waste the time by tossing on a movie, so instead of grappling with new content right now, use this time effectively by strengthening a topic they already started to wrap their brains around. Maybe this time around, make it into an engaging game of Around The World, or toss up a Kahoot! to get the kids using some of that excited energy for educational things.
Survival Tip #2: Stay Consistent With Routines
While it may be tempting to toss in the towel and vow to review your classroom rules again after the holidays, don’t let your high expectations slide. You know that students may be a bit more chatty during transition times, yet students will appreciate the consistency in your classroom. Countless times I have had students with anxiety tell me that their other classes are complete madhouses the few days before the holidays – which causes their stress levels to fly through the roof (now they’re REALLY not going to be able to focus). There are so many things that students have to be stressed about when it comes to holiday time – try to take your class off that list of anxiety!
Consistency may also help with keeping behavior issues at a minimum. Students that know how they are expected to act and are aware of procedures are less likely to get squirrelly than if you let them have free rein. In their minds, you’ve let your other expectations go, so they’ve got the green light to push your boundaries a bit more. With the headache of your other responsibilities during this time, this is the absolute last thing you want. Keep everything as consistent as possible, and your students will know what you expect.
Survival Tip #3: Consider Planning In Movement to Your Lessons
Students are going to have extra energy, especially before the long Christmas Break. Everyone is aflutter with holiday cheer, gift-giving, the family is coming into town… a recipe for squirmy students. Think up some ways to incorporate movement into your lesson – even if it’s just to have kids stand up and grab a handout from a certain location! Yes, it will take a few more minutes of class, but after they settle again, you may notice that their attention is refocused on what you are teaching. It’s worth a shot, anyways!
Survival Tip #4: Don’t Collect a Large Project/Essay Right Before Break
This is a break for you, too! Don’t collect a huge project or an essay before break with the intention of having them all corrected before you return to school. You need time for self-care, mental breaks and just time doing what you love to do. The holidays are for family, friends and finding magic in the season. Don’t ruin your own break by trying to be the superhero teacher. Your students are counting on you to show up after break feeling refreshed and bringing your very best self – which you can’t do if you’ve spent a chunk of your time grading assignments. I know it’s hard… but don’t bring home a huge workload this holiday season. You’ll thank yourself later.
Survival Tip #5: Don’t Assign a Large Project/Essay Due After Break
Just as you want a break from school work and a bit of time to relax, your students do, too! They need this time to destress from the last few weeks so that they can come back to school charged up and ready to go. If at all possible, don’t send your students home with a large project or essay that they have to complete when they return from break. 1) 95% of them are going to procrastinate, then hurriedly finish the project the night before school starts again and 2) You are going to spend part of your break worrying that someone forgot about the project, wondering if you need to send out a reminder, and groaning over the fact that you will have a PILE of grading to do once you return from break. Just. Don’t. Do It.
Survival Tip #6: Do One Thing You REALLY Want To Do
What is one thing that has been tickling the back of your brain for a while now, that you just haven’t set aside the time to do? Have you wanted to throw a holiday party? Plan one! Been thinking about a few old friends? Schedule a meet-up! Wanting to read that book that you keep hearing everyone raving about? Grab a snuggly blanket and get to it! Do this one thing that your soul has been begging for you to do so that at the end of the break, no matter what else happens, you can check off your list and feel an iota of accomplishment.
Survival Tip #7: Take a Mini-Holiday Away From Social Media
Scrolling your Instagram feed may seem like a mindless task, but for some people, it actually causes a building up of tension and anxiety. Seeing the highlight reel of other friends and family doing their holiday things may bring about a feeling of loneliness if you haven’t been involved in as many holiday events as you’d like. Try taking a brain break from your most addictive social media account for a day or two (or the entire break!) and spend the time instead on Survival Tip #6! You will find that your mind will be clearer, your mood will be boosted, your intentions more focused and that you are happier in general. Enjoy the present this holiday season. Social media will always be waiting for you.
What survival tips would YOU add?