I can almost smell Thanksgiving. The turkey roasting, the cinnamon rolls, the pie. I think my students can to. Their energy has increased exponentially these last few days as we get ready for a 5 day break next week. They are so eager to be on break, they are so eager to do something other than school. When they come back it will be December and all teachers know how December goes. It feels like you are holding a simmering volcano in your hands at time as the kids try so hard to focus.
In the past, I would yell a little louder. I would tighten the reins of control. I would punish and then I would hold the great reward, our holiday party, as the big fat carrot on the stick. I would cajole, I would practically beg. “Hang with me! We have to get this done! Stay focused so we can all get a break!” But not anymore.
Now I notice the energy as it climbs and then I work with it. Sure, it means I am exhausted by the end of the day. Sure it means that I am using every single brain cell to try to come up with ways to use their energy for good. Sure, it still sometimes blows up in my face. But in our room the holidays don’t mean we take a break from learning, we just change what we do.
So now I create more hands-on learning opportunities. We have been immersed in the world of exploration and I have asked the students to figure out what they want to do with all of their knowledge. During December I don’t want to feed them the project, I want them to use their energy to come up with something amazing.
Now I recognize the holidays instead of pretending they are not happening. We listen to holiday music (I sneak in Danish Christmas songs to their befuddlement). We take part in the awesome holiday card exchange run by my talented friend Jen Wagner. I tell them about my holiday traditions and they share theirs on our blogs. We read picture books, we learn about other cultures. The holidays aren’t something to hide from, they are something to embrace!
We do more challenges. We just did the spaghetti and marshmallow tower challenge, we just had our flipstick olympics. Next up comes marshmallow catapults and the toilet paper roll challenge. They are still learning even if it is not all dictated by my curriculum.
We read more. All of the craziness can be too much if we try to keep it going, so we make sure to have our down time too. The students and I all need the calmness of the read aloud (even if it is a super exciting one) to give us all a breather. And we don’t mess with our independent reading time, that is sacred, no matter what.
We give back when we can. We write letters to Helping Hands, we make extra holiday cards for the nursing home across the street, we have extra time with our first grade buddies. We try to give back because we get so much throughout the year.
So instead of getting angry, work with the energy that has arisen during this exciting time for students. Use it to your advantage. Create learning opportunities that they will remember. Challenge them, push them, and have fun with it. The holidays are all about love, laughter, and great times. Bring that into the classroom in whatever you do.