The week before winter vacation is a difficult one in school. This is largely due to the fact that after Thanksgiving, some switch flips in kid’s brains and makes them think that Christmas is coming immediately, and vacation even sooner! (As I type this, it’s suddenly occurring to me that the fact that all advertising is Christmas themed starting at least as early as Thanksgiving is to blame. There’s a research opportunity in that. Someone get on that.)
Not all my students are Christian, and not all celebrate Christmas. My school has students who are Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, Jewish, Atheist, Agnostic, and everything in between! It’s not even about the holiday- it’s the break! The longest in the school year.
Anyway, in the days just before vacation, we aren’t teaching. We aren’t even babysitting. We are fending off a coup from an army of monkeys on methamphetamine.
It’s exhausting. The energy level is so high, that it becomes a struggle just to keep kids in their seats long enough to write their names, let alone get any actual academics done. And in the week before a long break, there is stuff we absolutely have to finish. You can’t really leave something halfway done and then take a two week break. For example, we’re making maps of different regions of the U.S. It took longer than expected. At the beginning, I said things like this to my students: “Make sure when you are making economic symbols for your key, you have at least three specifically about land use for each state.” With 6 hours left of learning time before break, it became “Coloring inside the lines isn’t important! Just color!”
It can be easy to get crabby, and overwhelmed, and frustrated. So I make a conscious effort to see the world through my kid’s eyes. That advice was given to me by a colleague a few years ago, and it is the perfect advice.
See the world like they do. Snow is amazing, and beautiful, and why wouldn’t you walk away from your math book and stare out the window? Why wouldn’t you cut writing short and go outside to catch snowflakes on paper? I have my own pair of snow pants, and there is nothing more fun than sliding down an icy hill, screeching at the top of your lungs, and landing in a way that gets snow into your ear canals, all with your students.
Christmas is coming! Think about trees, and lights, and presents, and seeing your family who live far away. When one of my little ones told me, “I can’t concentrate, I’m thinking about my cousin coming to visit”, I was swamped by a memory of my own Christmases with my cousins, who are now all across the country, but who I will see next week. I let myself be distracted thinking about all the things we’d talk about. Our inside jokes, new updates, old stories.
It’s almost vacation! They tell me they’re going to ski, and sled, and stay up late, and see their friends. I think of all the things I’ll do with my time, and smile about that.
Most of all, I let myself see the joy in my kids. They are so excited they literally jump. My mother, who is the source of most of my teaching inspiration, told me of a time she watched a line of kids leaping like popcorn, spinning and dancing, with sheer excitement. She told me, you can let yourself be frustrated they aren’t in line, or let yourself be grateful that they are so happy with their life that they literally have to dance a little.
So during this crazy week, I give in to the joy. Every shouted answer, every joke that couldn’t be kept in, every high five that has to happen before we can put our chairs down, every belly laugh we share as a class. Joy. I am surrounded by some of the happiest people in the world. What a gift.