I am 100% the teacher on the left, and I think it genuinely helps me enjoy my job more during a time that would be easy to hate it. We all know the stress levels as we approach the holiday break sky rockets as the students get crazy, the to-do list is piling up, and the workload doesn’t feel like it’s lightening up any time soon. Here are a few steps that I would recommend to help make this time of the year less stressful and more enjoyable.
Step 1: Decorate your door!
So I may go a little crazy when it comes to decorating. I love all excuses to decorate and be creative, so the holiday season really sets the stage for that. Anywhere I can add a little piece of holiday, it’s there.
This year I wanted to do something different. I see all of these door ideas on Pinterest that are super duper cute, but I feel like I see them all the time. I wanted my door to be something that you don’t see often as you scroll through pinned Christmas doors. Oh, and I wanted it to include coffee because, well, coffee. And… I should probably mention that I have a team mate who is one of “those” teachers who go all out, so, of course, I have to be sure to one up her. 😉
I looked up coffee holiday doors on Pinterest and found one the kind of inspired me, and I went from there. The students helped me to work out the details and to put it all together, and I am stoked with how it turned out. My holiday door will probably exceed the holidays because I am not ready to take it down.
Step 2: Incorporate Dress Up Days
I am 100% one of “those” teachers (yes, the same one that I referred to earlier about my teammate – ha) who loves to go all out! The more dress up days, the better in my eyes! Not all agree with me so we settled for 4 dress up this days instead of the 12 I was requesting. Ha!
When planning your dress-up days, the key is setting plenty of notice and to think of things that most people can piece together. It’s easy to pick up a t-shirt with a reindeer on it or to add 3 black buttons on a white shirt to be a snowman.
If you set the right themes and really work to build them up with everyone, they should be a huge success!
Oh, and I also like to allow the students at least one dress up day. We set ours up to be mostly for our teachers with one dress up day for students the day before the break. It works out perfectly. The students LOVE seeing the new outfits for their teachers each day and really enjoy getting to rock their own crazy holiday attire.
Step 3: Plan Fun Standards-Based Classroom Activities
Believe it or not, the students LOVE getting to participate in holiday festivities; however, if given the right amount of freedom, they can act completely OFF THE WALLS the week before holiday break. I know, I know… it’s hard to imagine our darling students being wild and unruly (said no teacher ever).
For this reason, I like to set up holiday-related activities that are still aligned to the curriculum. It’s easy to maintain the classroom structure if students know what they are doing holds value. When you start busting out the coloring sheets with no purpose aside from to take up time, students know they don’t have to really focus or put forth effort. I am not saying to give them a hard task or a test the day before the break, but you definitely want something that still holds their focus but is creative.
My go-to activity leading into the break is a prepositional phrases practice sheet where students decorate a gingerbread house, Christmas tree, or an elf, and then they write out their decorations and identify the prepositions and prepositional phrases. I have been doing this activity with my classes well before I ever imagined joining the TPT world and love it so much. If you are interested in any of these, you can click on the images below to visit my store to see the product in more detail. If you’re interested in all three, I do have a bundle for them here.
Find yourself a traditional activity that you use every year so that you know what works and can enter the holiday season at ease. Not knowing what to do on these crazy days can really come with a lot of anxiety if you don’t have a plan for structure in your classroom.
Step 4: Spend Time Together
We all know that school luncheons and food days consist of the BEST FOOD EVER! Who knew that teachers and school staff were bakers and chefs too?! Geez, we carry so many roles!
Anyway, my advice for these days is to eat-eat-eat, and enjoy it all – especially the time spent with your work family. The breakroom lunches are so good for building and maintaining community in your school. I can honestly say that my absolute favorite part of my school is the culture and the family feel. The moment you walk in the building, you can feel it! It’s the little things that help build that up in your school.
Another way to really build up the community in your school is to have activities throughout the year for your staff to participate in. My friend Sarah and I are working hard to plan a craft day for each holiday or new season this year. For Christmas, we hosted a canvas painting party for our teachers, and it was a HUGE WIN!!! We had 25 teachers sign-up to paint and were overwhelmed with the positivity and love that filled the room as teachers painted and enjoyed each others’ company. I loved everything about that day, even though I was so busy hosting and making rounds seeing everyone that I didn’t even get to paint.
These days have been so wonderful for us as a staff, and the teachers have been so very appreciative!
Step 5: Random Acts of Kindness
Speaking of building up the culture and morale, who doesn’t love a little gift or sweet note to show up in your box or on your desk? My friend and I have also been trying to drop little notes of appreciation for the teachers. We’ve done thank you cards, cards complimenting something in particular we’ve seen them do, and every now and then we have a little treat for them such as a random K-cup and note in their boxes.
These don’t always have to be something that costs money. We all know how nice it is to feel like something we are doing is noticed and appreciated. Take a moment to write that sweet note or a compliment to a peer and watch the smile it creates.
No matter what steps you take to make this season more enjoyable for you, I hope you can relax and enjoy the little moments with your students, staff, family, and friends. Have a wonderful break and rest up to start 2018 rejuvenated!