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December 14, 2015

12 Tips to Get the Most out of Winter Break

By Shari Carter
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    Winter break is serious business for teachers. We owe it to ourselves and to our students to get the much needed rest and relaxation that we so deserve. In The Principal’s Survival Guide, co-author Susan Stone Kessler says:

    "I have learned to schedule time to do nothing, even during the busy holiday season. There is a reason that airline warnings tell passengers 'In the event of the loss of cabin pressure, secure your mask before you help others.' Breaks are the oxygen for an army of educators who serve kids every day in our schools. Take time to enjoy the quiet, for it is through those periods of rest that you are able to return to the classroom stronger, with greater clarity about how to teach in a way that results in student learning, and with a renewed commitment to the important work you do daily: serving your students, who so desperately need you."

     

    Enjoying the Week Before Winter Break 

    • Handling the Crazy!

    The week before winter break can be a pretty crazy time of year for a teacher. Getting students focused can be a pretty challenging task. First of all, it is important to try your very best to stay on your regular schedule, though this can be hard considering the extra activities during this time of year. For instance, during our last week of school, we have a Christmas program and an assembly. On top of that, we end the week with an all-school sing-a-long. Now, these are all really fun events that both my students and I are looking forward to, but they do put a kink in our schedule for sure. This is a time when you really need to exercise your flexibility as a teacher during the “interruptions,” but make an honest attempt at continuing valuable learning in your class.

    • Plan Fun Lessons 

    To get the most enjoyment out of this week, take extra measures to plan engaging lessons and activities your students will love. I promise you, they will be better behaved when they’re focused on a fun learning task. I absolutely love and look forward to the few weeks of school that lead up to winter break! Our themes are light and fun and while the kids are enjoying learning, I'm having a great time teaching — who doesn’t LOVE gingerbread men, reindeer, and elves! Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have a job that wasn’t so much fun!

     

    Participate in the Festivities

    • Laughing is Good for the Soul

    Sometimes it feels like you just can’t fit one more thing in during this time of year. Exhaustion sets in and going home, putting on your jammies, and sitting in front of the TV is sounding pretty good right about now. But I promise you, being around people you love, having fun, and laughing is good for the soul. We are all tired, but don’t forget that you will have the next couple of weeks to sleep in and catch up on all those recorded shows you haven’t had time to watch.

    • Make Your School a Fun School!

    Our School is such a great place to work! Our Social Committee plans many activities to keep our spirits up during the last week of school. Some of the events at our school include:

    1. A Staff Cookie Exchange: Very fun and super yummy!

    2. Holiday Dress-Up: Each day of the last week is designated for a particular dress-up item. This event is for both staff and students at our school. The best part is, our principal has given us permission to wear jeans each day of our last week and that, in itself, is a total morale booster!

    3. Staff Holiday Party: We leave campus and have a party where we get to spend time with one another (and our spouses) outside of school. We have great food, a white elephant gift exchange and play exciting games. 

    A Time for Giving

    Nothing makes me feel better than when I give of myself and I am able to see the smile that a simple act or gesture can bring to a person’s face. It doesn’t take much to impact someone’s day, and it’s usually the littlest things that mean the most.

    Here are some ideas for giving at your school:

    • Random Acts of Kindness Buddy (RAK): I always love to deliver my secret buddy a Christmas gift. I never get to see my RAK Buddy’s reaction, but there’s something so fun and exhilarating about secretly doing something nice and knowing that it will probably make their day!

    • Room Mom: I don’t know about you, but I would be lost without my Room Mom. I love all my volunteers and do something special for them at the end of the school year, but this volunteer takes on quite a bit more to help my students and me. Make sure to do something special for them to show that you really appreciate all that they do.

    • Get Your Kids Involved in Giving

    There’s nothing more special than this time of year for your students. Their excitement cannot even be contained in their little bodies. You can see it all over their faces, in what they have to say, and of course in their actions — they are just counting down the days! Slow down a bit, and take a moment to just watch your kids. Study their faces and actions, breathe a little when they’re being crazy, and remember what it was like to be that age. This truly is a magical time of year for them!

    • Making Parent Gifts

    Make gifts for your class to give to their parents. This year my students are making reindeer frames to give to their parents. You can read my last post to learn how to make them! I know there will be a lot of happy parents when they see this special gift, but just take a moment to watch your students as they make their presents. They are just as special to them and you are giving them the opportunity to experience what it feels like to give.

    • Student Gifts

    I love giving gifts to my students. It makes me smile when I see how excited they are to receive it. Every year I give my students a book, because to me it seems like the perfect thing for a teacher to give her student. Scholastic Reading Club is a great way to give books for a very reasonable price. I usually don’t even have to pay for them because by this time of year, I have built up my Bonus Point bank and can use points instead of dollars. 

     

    Plan Before the Last Day of School

    Don’t make this mistake of waiting until the Friday before winter break to plan your lessons for the first week back. You will already be dreading the fact that you still have to plan before your vacation can begin. I am no good at getting anything done after a long week at school, so I would probably call it a day on Friday and plan to go in when I am rested and a little more clear-minded. The reality, however, is that I put off going in because I am enjoying my time off so much and then it happens . . . it’s the weekend before we go back and I am not prepared. The following are some tips and strategies to avoid this common pitfall many teachers make:

    • Stay Late to Plan

    Stay late one night of the week to plan and prepare materials. Set yourself up to not HAVE to come back to school during your break, unless YOU want to. If you do choose to come back in, focus on the things that you never have time for during the school year. I always feel so accomplished when I clean my storage closet. The results are obvious and a clean closet always makes me feel more organized.

    • Plan Activities That You and Your Students Will Love!

    Make sure your plans incorporate exciting activities that not only will your students look forward to doing, but that you will look forward to teaching. It is always hard to come back after time off, but make sure to remember and acknowledge that it is also an adjustment for your students.

     

    Back to School

    • Reconnecting With Your Class

    I always look forward to opening the door after a long break, and seeing my students' cute little faces. Let your students know how much you have missed them. Build time into your first day back to review rules and expectations, but be sure to allow your students (and you) to share their favorite part of their break. When you care enough to listen to their little stories, you are building relationships with your students. Building relationships with your students is such an important part of their learning. When you are strongly connected, chances are your kids will make more progress and want to work harder to please you.

     

    Be Present in the Moment

    • Prioritize You

    Take the time to rest every single part of you: your mind, your soul, and your body. You take such good care of so many kids all year long, but now it is time to take care of yourself. You will be a better teacher after break if you do. Make sure to do something special just for you: get a massage, go shopping with friends (maybe get a cute back-to-school outfit!), and take time to read that book you haven’t had time for. I cannot even wait to sleep in, bake cookies, wrap presents, and most of all: spend time with my amazing family that allows me to love my students with all my heart, even when it means they get less time with me.

    • My Wish for You

    Take time to smile, give thanks, live in the moment, and pay attention to the small things. Thank you for following me on my Top Teaching adventure this year and I wish you the happiest of New Years and much joy in your classroom during the coming year!!

    As a final thank you for the year, please help yourself to 25 percent off at The Scholastic Store.

     

    Don't forget to subscribe to my blog on Scholastic if you would like to get my latest posts delivered right to your inbox. 

    Thanks for reading, and see you next year!

    Shari 

     

     

     

     

    Winter break is serious business for teachers. We owe it to ourselves and to our students to get the much needed rest and relaxation that we so deserve. In The Principal’s Survival Guide, co-author Susan Stone Kessler says:

    "I have learned to schedule time to do nothing, even during the busy holiday season. There is a reason that airline warnings tell passengers 'In the event of the loss of cabin pressure, secure your mask before you help others.' Breaks are the oxygen for an army of educators who serve kids every day in our schools. Take time to enjoy the quiet, for it is through those periods of rest that you are able to return to the classroom stronger, with greater clarity about how to teach in a way that results in student learning, and with a renewed commitment to the important work you do daily: serving your students, who so desperately need you."

     

    Enjoying the Week Before Winter Break 

    • Handling the Crazy!

    The week before winter break can be a pretty crazy time of year for a teacher. Getting students focused can be a pretty challenging task. First of all, it is important to try your very best to stay on your regular schedule, though this can be hard considering the extra activities during this time of year. For instance, during our last week of school, we have a Christmas program and an assembly. On top of that, we end the week with an all-school sing-a-long. Now, these are all really fun events that both my students and I are looking forward to, but they do put a kink in our schedule for sure. This is a time when you really need to exercise your flexibility as a teacher during the “interruptions,” but make an honest attempt at continuing valuable learning in your class.

    • Plan Fun Lessons 

    To get the most enjoyment out of this week, take extra measures to plan engaging lessons and activities your students will love. I promise you, they will be better behaved when they’re focused on a fun learning task. I absolutely love and look forward to the few weeks of school that lead up to winter break! Our themes are light and fun and while the kids are enjoying learning, I'm having a great time teaching — who doesn’t LOVE gingerbread men, reindeer, and elves! Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have a job that wasn’t so much fun!

     

    Participate in the Festivities

    • Laughing is Good for the Soul

    Sometimes it feels like you just can’t fit one more thing in during this time of year. Exhaustion sets in and going home, putting on your jammies, and sitting in front of the TV is sounding pretty good right about now. But I promise you, being around people you love, having fun, and laughing is good for the soul. We are all tired, but don’t forget that you will have the next couple of weeks to sleep in and catch up on all those recorded shows you haven’t had time to watch.

    • Make Your School a Fun School!

    Our School is such a great place to work! Our Social Committee plans many activities to keep our spirits up during the last week of school. Some of the events at our school include:

    1. A Staff Cookie Exchange: Very fun and super yummy!

    2. Holiday Dress-Up: Each day of the last week is designated for a particular dress-up item. This event is for both staff and students at our school. The best part is, our principal has given us permission to wear jeans each day of our last week and that, in itself, is a total morale booster!

    3. Staff Holiday Party: We leave campus and have a party where we get to spend time with one another (and our spouses) outside of school. We have great food, a white elephant gift exchange and play exciting games. 

    A Time for Giving

    Nothing makes me feel better than when I give of myself and I am able to see the smile that a simple act or gesture can bring to a person’s face. It doesn’t take much to impact someone’s day, and it’s usually the littlest things that mean the most.

    Here are some ideas for giving at your school:

    • Random Acts of Kindness Buddy (RAK): I always love to deliver my secret buddy a Christmas gift. I never get to see my RAK Buddy’s reaction, but there’s something so fun and exhilarating about secretly doing something nice and knowing that it will probably make their day!

    • Room Mom: I don’t know about you, but I would be lost without my Room Mom. I love all my volunteers and do something special for them at the end of the school year, but this volunteer takes on quite a bit more to help my students and me. Make sure to do something special for them to show that you really appreciate all that they do.

    • Get Your Kids Involved in Giving

    There’s nothing more special than this time of year for your students. Their excitement cannot even be contained in their little bodies. You can see it all over their faces, in what they have to say, and of course in their actions — they are just counting down the days! Slow down a bit, and take a moment to just watch your kids. Study their faces and actions, breathe a little when they’re being crazy, and remember what it was like to be that age. This truly is a magical time of year for them!

    • Making Parent Gifts

    Make gifts for your class to give to their parents. This year my students are making reindeer frames to give to their parents. You can read my last post to learn how to make them! I know there will be a lot of happy parents when they see this special gift, but just take a moment to watch your students as they make their presents. They are just as special to them and you are giving them the opportunity to experience what it feels like to give.

    • Student Gifts

    I love giving gifts to my students. It makes me smile when I see how excited they are to receive it. Every year I give my students a book, because to me it seems like the perfect thing for a teacher to give her student. Scholastic Reading Club is a great way to give books for a very reasonable price. I usually don’t even have to pay for them because by this time of year, I have built up my Bonus Point bank and can use points instead of dollars. 

     

    Plan Before the Last Day of School

    Don’t make this mistake of waiting until the Friday before winter break to plan your lessons for the first week back. You will already be dreading the fact that you still have to plan before your vacation can begin. I am no good at getting anything done after a long week at school, so I would probably call it a day on Friday and plan to go in when I am rested and a little more clear-minded. The reality, however, is that I put off going in because I am enjoying my time off so much and then it happens . . . it’s the weekend before we go back and I am not prepared. The following are some tips and strategies to avoid this common pitfall many teachers make:

    • Stay Late to Plan

    Stay late one night of the week to plan and prepare materials. Set yourself up to not HAVE to come back to school during your break, unless YOU want to. If you do choose to come back in, focus on the things that you never have time for during the school year. I always feel so accomplished when I clean my storage closet. The results are obvious and a clean closet always makes me feel more organized.

    • Plan Activities That You and Your Students Will Love!

    Make sure your plans incorporate exciting activities that not only will your students look forward to doing, but that you will look forward to teaching. It is always hard to come back after time off, but make sure to remember and acknowledge that it is also an adjustment for your students.

     

    Back to School

    • Reconnecting With Your Class

    I always look forward to opening the door after a long break, and seeing my students' cute little faces. Let your students know how much you have missed them. Build time into your first day back to review rules and expectations, but be sure to allow your students (and you) to share their favorite part of their break. When you care enough to listen to their little stories, you are building relationships with your students. Building relationships with your students is such an important part of their learning. When you are strongly connected, chances are your kids will make more progress and want to work harder to please you.

     

    Be Present in the Moment

    • Prioritize You

    Take the time to rest every single part of you: your mind, your soul, and your body. You take such good care of so many kids all year long, but now it is time to take care of yourself. You will be a better teacher after break if you do. Make sure to do something special just for you: get a massage, go shopping with friends (maybe get a cute back-to-school outfit!), and take time to read that book you haven’t had time for. I cannot even wait to sleep in, bake cookies, wrap presents, and most of all: spend time with my amazing family that allows me to love my students with all my heart, even when it means they get less time with me.

    • My Wish for You

    Take time to smile, give thanks, live in the moment, and pay attention to the small things. Thank you for following me on my Top Teaching adventure this year and I wish you the happiest of New Years and much joy in your classroom during the coming year!!

    As a final thank you for the year, please help yourself to 25 percent off at The Scholastic Store.

     

    Don't forget to subscribe to my blog on Scholastic if you would like to get my latest posts delivered right to your inbox. 

    Thanks for reading, and see you next year!

    Shari 

     

     

     

     

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