Keep Learning on Track During December
Teaching in December is hard! There are so many outside distractions and let’s face it, everyone is so ready for a little time off! Here are a few ideas to help keep things on track in your classroom so that December is productive and positive.
- Classroom structure – It’s very important to maintain your classroom schedule and follow established rules. Students of all ages need the stability and predictability this provides when life outside of school may be a little hectic.
- Behavioral expectations – You don’t have to be the Grinch, but consistently enforcing classroom behavior norms will help keep chaos to a minimum and will help keep learning on track.
- Set and monitor goals – Set aside a few minutes at the beginning of the month to set goals students need to accomplish before the holiday break. This is especially important for high school students who have exams and are beginning to apply to colleges. Do a weekly progress check to see where students are and offer guidance or support.
- Encourage attendance/punctuality – This is especially important at the secondary level. The “magic” of the season is different for them and they are more focused on the social aspects of time with friends, parties, and other outside activities. They are just ready to get to the break! Alas, there are end-of-semester exams, and being late or missing class can set them up for failure. Bring in treats, find out what their “currency” is and take advantage of that to keep them motivated.
- Plan for active learning – This is the perfect time to provide a little break from traditional lessons and instruction. Give younger students opportunities for hands-on activities that correlate with lessons. Get secondary students engaged in review for finals by playing subject-themed Jeopardy or playing a game using the online platform Kahoot!
- Don’t pack the schedule – It’s tempting to add unplanned “fun” activities to your lesson plans, and that’s okay, but just remember that you have a certain amount of material to cover before the end of the semester. You want to allow time for important instructional material and review before exams.
- Stay organized – Staying organized will reduce your stress levels and allow you to enjoy time with your students and your family. A few minutes at the end of the day to review your plans and make sure you have materials will go a long way toward keeping your students engaged and you from going totally crazy!
- Check-in – Spend some time every day to notice the students who aren’t as engaged or seem a little overwhelmed. Remember, we don’t all have the same holiday experiences and it’s important to check in with these students to make sure they’re okay and encourage them.
What Administrators Can Do to Turn Stress into Merry
This is the perfect time to show teachers how much you appreciate them! You don’t have to spend tons of money to keep their spirits bright, here are some simple ideas.
- Treats – Work with your parent organization to provide treats for your teachers. In one school where I worked, the principal and vice-principal came around every day the week before the break and brought little treats like hot chocolate, cookies, candy, etc., and the last day a small Christmas ornament.
- Send in the Elves – This is a great time for the counselor and other staff to go into classrooms to read a story so that teachers have a few minutes to catch up and regroup.
- Shout Outs – Acknowledge teachers and staff during announcements. Catch them doing great things and tell everyone about it.
Perhaps the best suggestion of all from Principal Gerry Brooks sums it up nicely in this Tweet from November 29, 2021.
Surviving December in the Classroom. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from https://chalkandapples.com/surviving-december-in-classroom/
New Teacher: Surviving the Last Week of December. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/overcoming-new-teacher-exhaustion/
Teaching High School in December: A Three-Point Survival Guide. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from https://theeducatorsroom.com/teaching-high-school-in-december-a-three-point-survival-guide/
Teia Hoover Baker is an educator, published author, and entrepreneur. She is an innovative, devoted educator whose career has been dedicated to coordinating programs that support struggling learners. Her passion is meeting students where they are and guiding them to excel. Her main focus is always what is best for children. Teia holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism and a Master’s of Education. In her spare time, she enjoys being Lovie to her growing grandchildren.