We all know that kids really look forward to Winter Break. Those days leading up to the holiday are full of anticipation. Elementary students are busy sharing their vacation plans, making gifts for family members, doing crafts, taking final tests that need to happen before the break, and adding to this energy in the building that is only matched by the days before Summer Break starts. I’m sure middle school and high school students paint a similar picture.
However, if there is a group of people that is MORE excited about the holiday, it is teachers! That look in our eye as the kids flood out the doors towards the buses cannot go unnoticed. We are smiling, giggling, and mimicking behavior of only the most hyper kids full of sugar. And the parking lot … oh, the parking lot. Within minutes after the final bell rang it is empty. This unmatched excitement leading up to a much deserved break for teachers is not reflective of a disinterest in our jobs. It is not reflective of a dislike of our students. And it is certainly not reflective of the desire of sloth. Just like the kids, and adults in any other profession, a vacation is anticipated and much needed. This year, more than ever, the timing of Winter Break could not be more perfect.
As with anything new in the classroom (and even those routines that are ingrained and automatic), reflection is an imperative part of a teacher’s practice. With the full-fledged implementation of CCSS this year, the need for reflection is stronger than ever. My time is less abundant due to the increased workload that comes with creating new material to match new standards. I’m guessing that you get the feeling that I do too – you know where you’re so overwhelmed with information, processing ideas, and entertaining new thoughts that you feel like if anything else comes your way your brain may actually explode. Yet, in the forefront of my mind, in the middle of my dreams (literally), and in all mid-conversations, is constantly the thought of “How can I do this better?”
I’m at a point of the year where my desk is cluttered, my conversations with colleagues often jump from topic to topic mid-sentence due to all on our minds, and my schedule is packed. So, like I mentioned above the timing of Winter Break could not be more perfect. I’m not alone, trust me, I’ve heard it from every corner of my building, every other colleague I’ve encountered district-wide, and every friend I meet in other districts. We need some time to decompress. We need uninterrupted, quality time that is intentionally set aside for our families and friends (for me, this has looked like Christmas Eve and Christmas Day gatherings, a date with my husband to see The Hobbit, New Years Eve and New Years Day celebrations, and a dinner with friends). We need a little time allocated to do what makes us feel rested and rejuvenated (for me, this has looked like a few mornings with no alarm clock set, some extra long dog walks and really good workouts). We need some time to ‘catch up’ so we can go back to the kids we love feeling less frazzled (for me this has looked like doing some grading, writing lessons, and getting taking care of emails and tasks that have nearly been forgotten).
Most importantly, we need some time to do major reflection about where we are in the 2014-2015 school year. I realize for teachers of semesters it might look different. But for elementary teachers, we are just over one-third of the way through the school year. This means that I have only two-thirds of the year to ensure that I have facilitated the learning required by the CCSS for ALL of my students. Winter Break is the perfect time to ask myself:
- What strategies have been effective in teaching the CCSS?
- What skills have been mastered by ALL students?
- What students still need interventions and in what areas? How am I going to come back to school in January to ensure that they get the instruction they need?
- Looking at all of the standards, what haven’t I taught yet? What is my plan to be sure I teach what I need to by June?
- How has my instructional plan changed from September to now?
- What am I hearing from families? How can I best address the needs they have regarding understanding of the CCSS and their students’ progress?
What are your reflection plans over this break? What things do you need to think about? And while we’re at it, how are you taking time for yourself, too?
I grew up here in Western Washington, wanting to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. As the oldest child in my family, I had plenty of opportunities to "practice" teaching my younger siblings. I enjoyed this. They may not have. :) When I'm not working, I enjoy outdoor activities with my husband and our two Australian Shepherds (whom are far too spoiled for their own good!). I also love spending time with my family, being an auntie (to the cutest kids ever to grace this planet!), hosting dinner parties for friends, crafting, taking photographs and shopping.