December is an exciting and often hectic month in classrooms. Holiday celebrations, snow days and events leading up to the break will provide some added complications to teaching. Although these are things to consider every day, this time of year can be highly emotional and stressful for students and teachers. Here are some things to consider at this time of year:
1. Be Flexible There will be many interruptions in the upcoming weeks and some of those events you might find out about over the announcements along with your students. Go with the flow. Whatever you had planned will keep until the next day.
2. Be Culturally Aware and Respectful There are many celebrations that go on in the month of December and they do not all occur during the two week break. Be aware and respectful of the cultural diversity in your classroom around this time.
3. Be Aware and Sensitive to the Needs of your Students For many students breaks away from the routine and safety of school bring anxiety. There will be homes in which the holidays provide unrest and economic stress.
4. Prepare your Students When possible, remember to prepare those students who have difficulty with change in routine for upcoming events (that you know about). Prepare them well in advance, keep using the visual schedules and calendars right up until the last day before the break.
5. Keep them Working As much as possible, maintain daily routine and working on deep learning right up until the break. Some students will sense the loss of routine and take that as a sign that the regular rules only loosely apply.
6. Avoid Busy Work If you continue to plan deep learning and rich activities, students will stay focused and on task. If you “write-off” December as a month that nothing meaningful gets done then that will be exactly what happens. Report cards come quickly after the break so you will want to make sure that what you are working on in the classroom comes from curriculum expectations.
7. Movie Time It is tempting to try to keep students calm by watching movies in the upcoming weeks. Remember that whatever the students watch needs to be appropriately approved and should tie to the curriculum in a meaningful way.
8. Breathe December always seems as though it is rushing by at high speed. Take time to connect with your colleagues in the staff room at break time, go for a walk or just have a quiet moment to sit in your classroom. It will rejuvenate you for the rest of the day.
9. Extras It is easy to get caught up in the events in December. You may want to try to avoid taking on extra responsibilities as a new teacher. It is o.k. just to focus on your classroom.
10. Take Care of Yourself Sleep, exercise and nutritional balance are the ingredients for staying healthy through the winter months that are filled with colds and flu. When you are sick, take the time to recover and be kind and forgiving to yourself. You aren’t doing yourself, your colleagues or your students any favours by dragging yourself into work when you are ill.
You are almost at the first major milestone in the year. The mid-point in the year comes during the first two weeks of February. You can do this!