This short week before Thanksgiving holidays can be a nightmare for unsuspecting or unprepared schoolteachers. I know. I was one. No matter how well I had prepared my lessons or how good my intentions were, it was all for naught until I realized one fact. Whether I liked it or not, agreed with it or not, condoned it or not, students checked out at least one week prior to the holidays, maybe even earlier. In order to survive the pre-holiday party attitudes and behavior, I had to be smarter than my students, and that is no easy task.
I call today’s post TST: Teacher Survival Training. I am no expert, but I think during 30 years in public education I learned a few things. I will enumerate a few. . .
1) Do not introduce new material. If students are not receptive to reviews or activities reinforcing what you have already learned, they certainly won’t be receptive to learning new concepts. New material can wait for the day they return from the holidays.
2) Don’t throw away the rules. By this time of the year, you should be able to relax a bit, but don’t stray from your basic rules of class conduct, procedures, and expectations. You will only be providing a breeding ground for problems. I found this to be especially true with allowing students out of the classroom. Even if you aren’t “doing anything” students don’t need to be wandering the halls looking for trouble, even if they are only going to “check on a grade” or “see the nurse.”
3) Put a little holiday fun in your planned activities. High student energy can be channeled into games instead of misbehavior. The internet is a great place to look for holiday activities related to your subject matter. If nothing else, you can make or find a word search or crossword puzzle using your lesson’s vocabulary.
4) Give a test the day before the holiday break. I don’t like this one, but it does keep students quiet. The downside is that students usually don’t do well and you have to reteach and retest after the holidays. Also, if all the other teachers have the same idea, students will have a test in every class period.
5) Last, if you can’t fight ’em, join ’em. Let them have the class period to catch up on missed assignments, but prepare for noise. Just don’t call it a free day. Good teachers don’t give free days!
Good luck, and happy Thanksgiving!