For high school students, the month of December has lost its luster. There is no belief in Santa, and the elf is missing from its shelf. Replacing the holiday excitement is a mature appreciation of scarcity and disparity.
Adolescents are a blend of intellect and naivety. Their eyes are opening to a world that they previously defined differently. They are struggling to find their place in this world, and they are under incredible stress to perform academically and socially.
December shines a spotlight on high school students’ insecurities. Adults (teachers, security staff, and administrators alike) note an uptick in fights, disagreements, and a significant downturn in the school building’s harmony.
In other words, December is the month of DRAMA!
So, how do we, as the adults in the building, survive December with our dignity intact? How do we take care of ourselves, each other, our children, and our students during a month of parties, shopping, overspending, overeating, family issues, and financial worries? How do we mitigate the perils of the “happiest time of the year?”
The answer lies in a plan of attack. Akin to people’s Black Friday shopping sprees, educators need strategies. There are three essential yet crucial areas to focus on our battle for serenity: instruction, food, and clothing.
Plan for active learning. Secondary-level students are desperate for a break from traditional teaching. They need games. Use Kahoot or Quizlet. Make jeopardy games. Do anything to get the kids focusing on learning through competition. Then, just as the excitement peaks, plan a quiet day of coloring maps, designing Google Slides, or making posters.
Warning: DO NOT GIVE THEM UNSTRUCTURED TIME! Unstructured minutes are like feeding Gremlins after midnight–the consequences are too heavy. You need to be very deliberate and organized, but you cannot let them make their own decisions concerning how they spend class time.
The way to an adolescent’s mind is through their stomachs. Feed them. Give them the candy canes; bring in your homemade cookies. Give them a little joy in their daily drudgery.
When you return home, order take out. Don’t worry about food preparation and well-balanced meals; survive the days before break. January is for the resolutions. December is for eating.
In many high schools, the week before break is spirit week. Dive right into that. Pull out your ugliest sweater. Wear it with pride. Western wear, Wednesday: yeehaw! Go into that “dark night” with the necklace of blinking Christmas lights. You might not comprehend what Gray-fit Monday is all about, do it anyway. You will look ridiculous on pajama day. The week before the break is not about fashion. The week before the holidays is about comfort and sneakers. Besides, the layers of the “spirited” clothing will hide the bloat caused by the sugary and salty foods you have ingested.
Hopefully, this three-point survival guide will help my fellow secondary-level teachers. As for my elementary compatriots, good luck, I do not pretend to appreciate your struggle.
To all educators, everywhere, may you have a good, long holiday break!
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