Surviving the silly seasons of school

Don't lose it on your students as the holidays approach.

It’s the time of year when things go crazy in the classroom. Students know that school breaks are just days away and have decided that they are done with the nine weeks.

The silly seasons — the times after testing, short weeks, the time before holidays — are a part of many of the colorful anecdotes teachers share with one another. You still have content to cover and your students have already packed it up early for the long walk to the break.

What’s a teacher to do?

This past week, my students participated in one of their “favorite” activities — MAP testing. MAP testing is guaranteed to bring disruption to normal school activities.

Students’ brains are tired from the testing. They hate being stuck in the same class for hours waiting for classmates to finish tests. Their bored minds start to invent ways to pass the time and that leads to friction with teachers and other students. Tempers flare. Teachers can feel as if everything is out of control. Administrators get in their steps as they run from one fire to the next.

It all feels like absolute chaos. Add in the fact that a break is coming up and students go into protest mode. “Why are you making us work? The break is almost here!

So what do we do to fill this time when students are tired and distracted and we’re still trying to get in our content?

I’ve had a lot of trial and error to arrive at some things that I try in these silly seasons of school. This list is probably more of a combination of things to try and lessons learned.

  1. Don’t surrender your classroom structure and rules. The easy decision during these silly seasons might be to think you are being the “fun teacher” and give up on what you’ve established in class since Day 1. In my first year of teaching, I surrendered and it was a move that only brought more frustration to me. Keep and enforce your rules, keep your class structured. It cuts down on student boredom and that cuts down on poor decisions and that makes for a better class period for everyone. How can you ensure that you follow your rules and procedures during this time period?
  2. Give students a reason to stay engaged. On the Friday of the last week of school before winter break, I am going to give students a test. I can already hear the sounds of protest when students discover this Monday. Students need to be reminded that all grades will be impacted by this test. And so that set’s the tone for my week. A test on Friday means a review on Thursday. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday becomes the days to practice and apply this material. If students ask why you are making them work, tell them that you still have to work and they do too. What can you do to keep students engaged? What signals to your students that this is not playtime?
  3. Test run new ideas. Have you ever wanted to see if a new teaching strategy will work? Try it on a group of students you need to get engaged in the material. Who knows? This might completely change the way that you approach the next semester. New ideas and new strategies will keep you engaged and excited in the last days before the break. What have you been wanting to try that you could work in during the next few weeks?
  4. Stay calm and don’t lose it. Every year, there are the stories of the teacher who loses control in a class during the times of the silly seasons of school. There are always students who will push a teacher’s buttons to see what reaction happens. Follow your rules and procedures and, above all, maintain your control. Take deep breaths and count in your head before you respond if you need to. Get help from another teacher. Call an administrator. Don’t lose it on a student. How can you establish a support system to keep you from losing it?
  5. Have Fun. This is what is going to help you make it through the silly season and arrive at your break with your sanity. Your students, generally, do love you and are looking to you as the example of what to do and how to react. Bring these seasons into your lessons. Add something different and fun for the students. Have students do something that requires movement to get out their energy. Tell silly jokes. Let them know it’s OK to have fun and learn at the same time. How can you bring the holidays into your lessons?

Have hope. Many teachers have navigated through these silly seasons and made it mostly unscathed. How you approach it is up to you.

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