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Surviving the Holiday Season

Top 5 Tips for Teachers

Here are five helpful survival tips for teachers as they tackle the holiday season and approach the final weeks of the year.

Kristin Van Gompel, Ed.D.
Kristin Van Gompel, Ed.D.
Senior Instructional Innovations Specialist
Teaching and Learning Innovations Team

Let’s be real: teachers need the holiday break just as much as students. Wrapping up assignments and projects, grading, completing assessments, grading, finishing up a long stretch of school sans break, oh and grading, prove to be tiring. Do not fret, teachers... holiday break is coming. In the meantime, thinking ahead and planning an approach to survive the weeks leading up to break is useful.

As we reflect on this taxing time of the year, we’ve compiled some survival suggestions to hopefully help get you to break. Here are our top 5 tips for tackling this season with confidence:

  • Lean into the holidays. Sure, some holiday activities may seem like “fluff”, but they don’t all have to be! Your students are most likely excited about the upcoming holiday, so why not lean in? Consider modifying regular activities or assignments to be thematic. Teachers have some of the most creative minds out there. Be imaginative when considering adaptations during the holiday season! Perhaps the December creative writing assignment could focus on the weather or unique family traditions. Or maybe some word problems for math could focus on calculating the costs of preparing a holiday meal and the time involved to shop for it, create it, and serve it. Whatever you choose to do, you can “celebrate” the holidays by modifying themes for topics you already plan on covering in the curriculum.
  • Make activities personal. While planning the thematic activities, find out what your students celebrate and if they have any family traditions they’d like to share. Try to incorporate the traditions and celebrations of your students into classroom activities. If you have students who celebrate holidays such as Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and/or Christmas, this is a perfect time to build educational activities around these celebrations. Not only will activities be more personal and meaningful, but students will also learn about traditions outside of their own, and learn more about their classmates. (If a New Year activity would better suit your classroom, see Tip 4!) Keeping activities personal will also enhance interest and engage students during a typically challenging few weeks.
  • Set realistic expectations. Let’s face it, the holiday season often prompts more disruptions in the classroom. You may be juggling to squeeze in seasonal school-wide activities, while also trying to wrap up projects and assessments. As you are nearing break, set expectations with your students. Remind them that although there is much excitement in the air, your classroom code of conduct should be followed. On the flipside, set realistic expectations for yourself. Expect more excitement, noise, and anxiousness from your students. All in all, it’s not about lowering expectations, it’s about managing them to be realistic during this very busy time of the year.
  • Set aside time for reflection. The last few weeks before the break is the perfect time for reflection activities. Consider asking students to reflect on both school and personal goals. What did they learn about themselves over the past year? What strengths did they notice? What areas could use attention and/or improvement? Perhaps following up with a goal-setting activity for 2020 may also work well for your class. And if you’re up for it, set aside time to reflect on teaching practices. What’s worked well so far, and what might need improvement? What feedback trends have you noticed? Etc.
    For Turnitin Feedback Studio users, take a look at the data from your past few assignments. What do your class statistics reveal? Which feedback tools (rubrics and QuickMark sets) are you using the most? Have you noticed the "eye" icon on your screen highlighted, which means students are viewing your feedback? What else could you do to enhance your students' writing process?

  • Have fun, drink mocha, and be merry. Thinking about ordering that peppermint mocha even though you normally drink coffee? You deserve it! While this time of the year can be stressful, just remember you are crushing it! Try to “enjoy” the chaos and have fun. Before you know it, the school day will end, grades will be in, and you can do whatever it is you need to do to relax.
From the Turnitin team, thank you for your teaching service. We wish you a nice, well-deserved break, and look forward to the new year ahead. Cheers!