Day 001/366 - January 1st

Day 001/366 – January 1st (Photo credit: Amanda M Hatfield)

Coming back from any vacation and starting work again is challenging, but returning to school after winter break is by far the toughest feat. You trade in your holiday gluttony, shiny new presents and plodding around your house in warm flannel pajamas for cold weather, short days, and the realization you’re still about 100 days from the end of the year. For a month, the radio has been telling you it’s “the most wonderful time of the year,” and you know damn well no one’s singing about January.

With normal jobs, you can glare angrily at your computer and be a hermit in your cubicle until you’re ready to act like a real human being again. No such luck in teaching. Not only do you have to muster enough enthusiasm to get yourself back in gear, but you’ve also got to get a room full of young people going, too. Your kids have been enjoying the same holiday bliss as you, and they’ve become pretty accustomed to not hearing you talk at them about independent clauses, the Alamo and the role of the endoplasmic reticulum.

With that, I give you my six (slightly conflicting) tips for returning from winter break strong. Why slightly conflicting? Well, coming back from winter break poses unique challenges, so you need to be prepared with a unique plan. Hey, if you wanted a straightforward gig, you would have become an accountant.


Tip #1: Be honest …

You know it. Your kids know it. Actually, anyone who’s ever been in school knows it. School in January can be tough. So be honest and tell your kids that coming back from winter break is challenging, and invest your class in meeting that challenge together. I’m showing my kids the graph showing first-year teachers’ attitudes toward teaching by month – the one showing the giant dip marked “Disillusionment” in January. I’ll use the graph to say it’s not just them, that all students and teachers struggle to come back strong from break, and that we’ll have to work hard to get past the initial struggles. I find my kids react well when I’m up front and honest with them, even if that means being the bearer of unpleasant truths.

Tip #2: … but be ready with rewards.

Even if you’re honest about the challenge your kids face in coming back from winter vacation, that doesn’t make it any less challenging. So, be ready to reward them early and often for remembering your procedures and doing good academic work. I have a class points system to reward classes when 100 percent of kids are doing the right thing...

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