We go back to school in 2 days. Last night, I entered scores, sent a parent email and planned for the week ahead. I realized that I was excited to go back, I always am, even though leaving my own children behind is bittersweet. But I also realized that I was tired, nervous about the coming week because surely the students would be just as tired, perhaps a bit unmotivated, and maybe even unhappy to be back at school. Knowing this I always treat January much as I treat September. It is chance for us to get to know one another again, to recommit to the community we have built, to laugh, and to learn and to not just think that school is one more thing we just have to get through.
So how do we work through the January slump that sometimes happens? A few ideas to help.
Bridge the past. We will start with an honest discussion of the non-fiction picture book project they handed in before break, a reflection of some sort, and then they will get their assessments back. We will take time to celebrate their accomplishments out loud but also set new goals. Because many kids did just fine, but just fine will not change the world.
Make it special. I should be doing a million things but choose to do a Mock Caldecott unit instead as we prepare for the ALA awards January 11th. We love picture books in our classroom but have drifted away from reading them because of time constraints, so this week marks a recommitment to picture books but also to critical thinking as we try to predict who the winner and the honors books will be. The other stuff will wait until after that.
Set the expectations. On the first day of school, my students discussed their community expectations and we have since then lived by them. Now is the time to refresh them because those kids I taught in September have changed a lot. So once again, I will ask them to decide how our classroom should sound, feel and look like, give them time to discuss, and give them to time recommit.
Acknowledge the energy. Too often we get upset when students are tired and yet, who can blame them? Their bodies are in vacation mode as much as ours. So instead of getting mildly upset, I will embrace it; more time for quiet, more time for reading, while also picking up the pace ever so slightly every day. And yes, I will continue to be that annoyingly positive teacher who pretends not to be tired every day because the energy of the classroom starts with us.
Try something new. January is the perfect time to start something new, whether it is just new to these students, or new to you. You know each other, you have your routines somewhat down, and the classroom could use a boost. So do something you haven’t done before this year; we will finally start blogging in the middle of January and I cannot wait, I have missed it a lot this year.
Bring others in. January is also great for cross collaboration as it allows the students to think about your class in a different way. So reach out to someone and see if they are up for doing a project together, whether it be in your school, or outside of your district. Simply having the component of others involved is an automatic energy infuser. We will be doing the 2030 Global Schools Project with the integrated literacy class at our school. (And the rest of the world).
Clean up. I took a day this break to clean our classroom. Dust the bookshelves, declutter books, wipe off the tables and take down displays. When the students arrive on Monday they will enter a fresh and inviting classroom with books eager to be read. Our rooms get as worn down as our brains, so take the time to set up it again; note, that does not mean spending tons of time on new things or new displays. Make it feel fresh again.
Protect what you hold dear. Much like I took time to clean our classroom over break, it is time to clean up our to-dos. Dust off those things you hold dear as a class and give them more time, declutter from stuff that is unneccessary and try to work it in a new way. Look at your plans and your schedule and recommit your focus on those things that matter most to your kids. A few months in is when we often get bogged down by all of the to-dos rather than the things that really matter.
Re-ignite your own passion. A deflated January can often lead to the famous February and March slump so now is your chance to surround yourself with others who want to share ideas, try new things, and lift each other up. Join something just for you. Whether it is a class you want to take, a book you want to read, or even joining an online book club like the one we are doing for Passionate Learners on Facebook; add something that will make you fall even more in love with teaching and give you new ideas to try.
I know I am not the only one thinking of how to make January successful? What are your great ideas? What will you be trying?
If you are looking for a great book club to join to re-energize you in January, consider the Passionate Learners book club on Facebook. We kick off January 10th.