Teaching during November and December is tough. While you know your winter break is coming, your work schedule leading up to it isn’t remotely flexible, and it’s one of the most stressful times of the year. Here are a few tested tips for holiday stress management.
1. Don’t go Pinterest crazy.
Yeah, I’m sure you can come up with tons of cute stuff the Elf on the Shelf could do for your first graders. You know what else you could do? You could NOT do that. Instead, you could spend that time getting a little ahead on paperwork so that you can use those planning days in January to—gasp—plan, instead of frantically trying to catch up.
2. Lighten your grading load.
Basically, if you’re going to assign an essay test for the final exam, make sure you’ve got a killer rubric that will make it easy to grade. Don’t load yourself up with papers to take home over the break. If you’ve got one of those nifty computer programs that’ll grade an assessment for you, now’s the time to use it.
3. Learn to say no.
Lots of people will tell you to say no to things you don’t really want to do around the holidays. But I’m here to tell you that you should say no to some things you DO really want to do. Because, in the end, will you enjoy it more than curling up in your pajamas with a glass of wine and Netflix? I can almost guarantee that the answer is no.
4. Get into the holiday spirit.
If you can afford it, and if you work at a school where a lot of kids need a hand around the holidays, spend part of your Christmas bonus (ha!) on a kid. For the last few years, I’ve picked one of my more difficult students to anonymously sponsor for Christmas. This accomplishes a few things. It gets me in the holiday spirit, it helps out a kid, and it gives me a connection with this student—even if they don’t know about it—that lasts the rest of the year. When that kid’s being obnoxious in February, I’ll be a little more patient and understanding every time I notice that she’s wearing the necklace she doesn’t know I bought her.
5. Shop online for gifts—and groceries too!
It’s not like you can hit the mall during the week when it’s not so crowded. Turn on the Charlie Brown Christmas special, fire up the old laptop, and get ‘er done. You can even buy your frozen meatballs and canned cranberry sauce online when you use Walmart’s Online Grocery Pickup.
6. Make the slow cooker your best friend.
Or if you’re fancy and have an Instant Pot, go with that. But there’s nothing like coming home to dinner already cooking and a house that smells delicious.
7. Group projects, group projects, group projects.
Here’s the great thing about group projects: everything. The kids love them. The mere fact that they involve group work hits about twelve standards. And, best of all, you only have to grade a fraction as many when they’re finished. ’Tis the season to collaborate, people!
8. Let the kids do the heavy lifting.
I teach middle school, and I have never planned a Christmas party. Why should I, when there are thirty people who are way more invested in that task right there in the room with me? Anything you can delegate, you should. Decorations, gift swap, parties…kids can handle that stuff.
If you find yourself on Christmas overload and need to step back a little, remember that you’re probably doing some of your students a favor by dialing it down. Your Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, and Jehovah’s Witness kids might be a little burned out on the hap, happiest season of all, not to mention conflicted. It doesn’t have to be all holiday all the time, especially in a religiously diverse classroom.
10. Embrace the chaos.
Yep, you will have glitter somewhere in your hair for the next month. The kids at school will be wired, your house and your classroom will be a mess, and you’ll hold up your phone in front of your own kids every day and yell, “Do I need to call Santa? Because he is right here in my contacts and, so help me Rudolph, I will call him right now!” Just breathe in the cinnamon scented insanity and thank God it only happens once a year.
Happy Holidays, folks. Hope somebody gives you either a very nice or a very big bottle of wine.
What are your tips for holiday stress management? Please share in the comments!