A Teacher’s Holiday Survival Guide

A Teacher’s Holiday Survival Guide
Brian Gatens November 4, 2013

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You survived Halloween but that was just a warm-up for the busy days ahead with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming soon.

A colleague of mine always likes to call this time of year “Hurricane Season.” The combination of colder weather (for those in seasonal areas), shorter days, later nights, and the (sometimes forced) frivolity of the holiday season increase the stress on staff members and students alike.

With that in mind, my Teachers’ Holiday Survival Guide will help get you through the holidays in one piece (and also keep the peace).

Let children be children

With all the clamor for higher standards and improved test scores, I think we run the risk of driving childhood out of our schools. Rather than fight the excitement and enthusiasm of this time of the year, I suggest you dive right into it with gusto. Don’t hesitate to decorate your classroom, complete holiday-related class projects, and take part in activities that get your students into the spirit of the season. Thanksgiving, with its firm grounding in American history and culture, provides an excellent opportunity to do this.

Take care of yourself

I always consider the holiday season as running from Halloween to New Year’s Day. In between are late nights, colder weather, and plain old-fashioned “busy-ness.” Take it easy on yourself: Be sure to get enough sleep, try to eat balanced meals and stay active, carve out time for self-care, and always, always wash your hands at school. Teachers have the immune systems of a superhero, but even we have to watch our health. On that same note, be sure to let parents know if their child isn’t feeling well.

Be extra patient

The holidays are a double-edged sword. On one side you have the expectation that this is a joyous and wonderful time of the year — and for many of our students, it is. Opposite that feeling, though, is the possibility that some students (and colleagues) may be feeling an acute loss. The holidays can awaken memories of who can’t be there this year, which is one of the reasons why some people might be a little on edge. As a result, be sure to be as patient as possible, and don’t be surprised if normally even-keeled people seem to struggle.

Be respectful of all

This isn’t really a “survival guide” item, but it bears repeating: Be certain that you respect and acknowledge all relevant religions and cultural traditions during the holiday season. Many teachers mistakenly think the separation of church and state means that schools have to be “religion-free” zones.

Instead, schools can use this time of the year as an opportunity to teach all children about the wide variety of cultural religious observances. Due to the sometimes knee-jerk reaction to this topic, I suggest that you bounce ideas off your colleagues and administrators.

An educator for two decades, Brian P. Gatens is superintendent/principal at Norwood Public School in Norwood, New Jersey. Gatens has worked at the K-12 level in public and private school settings in urban and suburban districts. He has been a classroom teacher, vice principal, principal, and now superintendent/principal.

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