I was laughing with a colleague this morning that, yet again, each of us made a resolution to engage in more mindfulness and not let the stresses of life take over. Last fall was busy for each of us and this upcoming winter is not slated to be any calmer. So I am looking to take those times in the day to pause and use a meditation app, go back to playing calming music in my classes, and just not rushing so much. (As I type this I am trying out Noisli, an app that you can customize to play nature sounds.)
This also gives thoughts to how I come back to my students, and how we engage them in classes upon return. Any teacher (and parent) can likely share that we know those students who struggle with the return to school from breaks. Even for myself, just the idea of having to set an alarm and following my morning routine at an early hour in a set time again made me anxious. Some kids struggle to get back into the required routine with ease, they have a harder time building their focus back to tasks, and they often need direct help to follow through with organization of materials.
So how can we, as teachers, help kids enjoy time off but not get so off routines that make returning to school an even more difficult?
- Go back to the basics with expected routines. Just because they have learned them for the first 4 months of school, doesn’t mean they have fully internalized them.
- Start slowly. Don’t expect the same production level as you might have had before break right off the bat. Some students need time to acclimate back to expectations and work levels.
- Remind students of expectations and follow throughs. It is always good to go over class expectations for work and behavior. This is a and great time of year to ask students to recall what those are first before reviewing them. This can empower them to own the knowledge and likely follow through with expectations with greater ease.
- Start with review. The first few days back are not the best times to introduce hearty new information. For those that really struggle to acclimate back, their brains are working so hard to get to routines, they are not fully available for new learning. Reviewing will provide much needed reinforcement and provide a level of success orientated learning.
- Keep it simple, and have a back up plan. There is nothing worse than thinking you have the right plans, and due to some challenges for students in the returning process, everything derails. I plan the lesson I want, and then do a quick “temperature” check as the students enter the room to assess which direction I should go in for the class.
The more positive achievement you make those first days back for students, the quicker you will be able to ratchet back up to those before break levels of work and expectations. Additionally, for those who truly struggle in this area, you are creating a path that allows them to find success. This is a win-win for all involved. So Happy New Year and happy back to school. Feel free to share ways you make that first week back a prosperous one!