By Otis Kriegel, author of Everything a New Elementary School Teacher REALLY Needs to Know
It happens to the best of us. Both students and teachers begin to smell winter break—the first solid time away from school for everyone—from about three weeks out.
Ahhhh . . . interest flags, staring out the window becomes a major occupation, the mind wanders to seeing grandparents, presents, no homework . . .
Once you start to count down the hours, those days leading up to break can be pretty rough, but there are a few things you can do to keep you and your class lively, interested, and committed to finishing the calendar year strong.
The tendency is to make everything end on the last day of school. But this isn’t June, it’s December, and when you return from break there will be more than half a year left. If everything wraps up right before you go on vacation, that leaves way too much grading for you, and trying to finish multiple projects all at once will drive you and your students crazy.
The solution? Pick one longer-term assignment that you will finish a few days before the break and create a celebration around it. In the meantime, have the kids continue to plug away at other assignments that will be the handrail you use to reengage them after that long break. This will keep some balance in your classroom.
And speaking of reengagement, plan some captivating special activities for after the vacation. Many teachers consider the days immediately following winter and spring break to be the hardest of the school year. Make sure there is something exciting to come back to. That will make heading toward the vacation less of a slog and more of something worth working toward.
Be sure to celebrate, but don’t overdo it. Keep the routines and systems you worked so hard to implement in your classroom. Send kids off on vacation proud of their accomplishments (a celebration), excited for a break (they worked consistently to the finish), and looking forward to returning in the New Year (some fun assignments to return to).
Do you plan to wrap up with any special activities before this year’s winter break?
Otis Kriegel is a 12-year veteran elementary school teacher, having taught in dual language (Spanish/English), monolingual, and Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) classrooms. He received his M.S.Ed. in bilingual education from the Bank Street College of Education and is adjunct faculty at the Steinhardt School at New York University. Kriegel, author of Everything a New Elementary School Teacher REALLY Needs to Know (But Didn’t Learn in College), now lives and works in New York City. he is An experienced presenter, he has conducted workshops with hundreds of preservice and new teachers and continues to present in universities and teacher education programs. You can contact him through otiskriegel.com and follow him on Twitter @mynameisotis.
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