Thanksgiving has flown past us and before you know it, Christmas will be here! Even though this is a magical time of year, it can also bring elevated levels of stress. Read on for 10 holiday survival tips to help you thrive at school and at home in this busy season.
Between the colder weather, school breaks, and the anticipated holiday celebrations, your students are overly excited and chances are you might see that come out in the classroom.
There's good news though! With the right preparation, the holiday season doesn't have to equal extra stress. These 10 practical holiday survival tips are all about working smarter, not harder!
1. Stay Focused
With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it's so easy to get caught up in the chaos. One of the easiest ways to survive the chaos is to stay focused. I know it's easier said than done, but try your best to stay in the moment.
Don't worry about the things you can't control. For instance, don't fret about holiday baking or shopping for gifts while you're in the classroom. There is nothing you can do about it while teaching, so let it go.
Continue your day-to-day routines and write down any schedule changes so you don't forget. Set a reminder on your phone so that when the schedule changes arise, you can calmly explain the next steps to your students before the event.
2. Make Lists
The next holiday survival tip is to keep yourself organized by writing things down or making lists. If sticky notes aren't already your best friend, now is the time to embrace them!
Write yourself a note and put it where you can see it. Set an alarm on your phone if you need to. Don't rely on your memory during this time of year (or anytime if you're like me and find yourself forgetting things as you get older!).
Make lists so you can prioritize what needs to happen first. You may have lists for what you need to do at home to prepare for the holidays, grocery lists, lists of activities to prep for your lesson plans, and lists of things to do to prepare your classroom before winter break.
Then, when something gets done, cross it off and bask in the satisfaction of knocking something off of your list!
3. Take Care of Yourself
So often as teachers, you get busy with class projects, prepping materials, or chatting with your teacher team that you forget to take care of yourself. You might forget to eat lunch, not get enough rest, or come to the end of the day and realize you haven't drank any water.
Being hungry, tired, and dehydrated makes it harder to concentrate and work effectively. Plus, it can make you cranky… and nobody wants to be a cranky teacher.
Drink plenty of water and keep healthy snacks, like trail mix or a protein bar, on hand that you can munch on when you feel hunger setting in. (This goes for all year long too!) Try your best to get a good night's sleep each night. You need your energy during this time of year!
4. Remain Consistent
Another holiday survival tip is to be consistent in your behavior expectations. Even though this is an exciting time of year, don't change your expectations or the way your classroom is run. Continue to model behavior and don't forget to:
- Review classroom procedures.
- Practice following procedures the correct way and continue this throughout the holiday season.
- Look for students making positive choices and compliment them for their correct choices, thus setting an example for others.
- Be prepared to do this again when students return from winter break.
5. Be Over Prepared
This time of year can make for unpredictable schedules. Some projects will take less time than anticipated or scheduled events may be canceled or cut short.
Make sure you are over prepared so your students are always on task and have something to do. The last thing you want is to have nothing planned, because your students will then have plans of their own, and probably not productive plans.
It's a good idea to have some fun and engaging Grab and Go math and literacy worksheets that you can pull out at a moment's notice.
These are great for extra practice, skill checks before winter break, and to add to your lesson plans when you're short on time.
Plus, you can always use what you didn't get to another day or send them home with students over winter break for skill practice.
6. Take Shortcuts When You Can
Whether it's at home or at school, this is the time of year to take shortcuts when you can. (Don't ever feel bad for it either!).
Take advantage of grocery pick-up services and department store gift wrapping. For dinners, pull out a meal-prepped frozen casserole or lasagna or take advantage of takeout or delivery services.
At school, take advantage of done for you lessons and activities for math, literacy, science, and social studies, all in an easy to use pack like this Plans in a Pinch kit.
These are perfect to use when planning for a sub or on days when your schedule changes due to assemblies or events.
7. Be You
Don't compare yourself to the perfectly decorated classroom across the hallway. Don't wear yourself out stressing about what decorations you did or didn't get put up this year… at home or at school!
Your students will not remember the decorated classroom. They will remember the fun activities and the time spent with you. Your students love you for the awesome teacher you are, lights or no lights!
8. Get Parents Involved
You don't have to do everything yourself. If your school allows, ask parents to help with small tasks. They can help with prepping materials or adding an extra set of hands during a project or activity.
You can also invite them to come in and read a story to your class. Don't just think about what parents can do in your classroom. Some parents are more than willing to help out, but they can't get to school during the hours you need.
You can ask these parents to prep materials at home or donate supplies for some of the classroom activities you'll be doing. Many parents realize teachers spend quite a bit of money out of their own pocket, and they're often happy to help you and your class out.
9. Keep the Last Day Low Key
There's no need to have huge projects planned for the last day before winter break. Read a holiday book, play a game, or do other activities that are low key and low stress.
Time filler games, listen and color activities, and hands-on activity mats like the ones found in the December Plans in a Pinch set are great, engaging options to use on the last day and week before break.
Kids LOVE when you get involved! Instead of watching movies on the last day before break, get down and play board games with your students, find easy Minute to Win It games on Pinterest, put puzzles together, color together, or simply let them choose.
You can even find fun, educational games and brain breaks online to incorporate to keep their energy at bay.
Keep in mind, you want the activities and projects you do on the last day and even the last week before winter break to be fun and encourage students to stay on task.
Incorporate extra partner games in your center rotations, do holiday crafts, have book talks, or do seasonal science experiments.
You can even throw in a cookie decorating time or make Christmas trees out of ice cream cones.
These FREE Christmas Math and Literacy Mats are perfect to add to your lesson plans in the days leading up to winter break. You can grab your free copy by filling out the form below. They'll be delivered straight to your inbox!
10. Clean Up and Prepare
Before you leave for winter break, take down all of the holiday decorations in your room. Get your calendar ready for January and plan out your lessons for the first week back. Print and prep any materials so you're ready to go the day you come back.
Nothing is worse (or more stressful!) than standing in the copy machine line on your first day back from break. This will ensure you can truly leave work at school over the break and enjoy yourself.
The holiday season is NOT meant to be stressful. It's a time to give thanks, relax, and enjoy family and friends (your school family included!).
Follow your procedures, stay focused, be yourself, keep it low key, and enjoy this magical time of year!
I hope these 10 practical holiday survival tips help you make the most of this season and keep the stress away.
Do you have a great holiday survival tip to share? Drop it in the comments below!