Teacher, are you ready for some rest over Christmas break? I know I am! This year hasn’t been as physically demanding as most years, but my brain is fried. So if you need a break before you read this post or listen to the PODCAST, bookmark it for later. But if you’re ready to starting thinking about how to hit the reset button for January, let’s get going!
I’m ready for a break for sure, but I know that in January we’ve got to get our kids over the finish line. To do that, we have to be able to get them back in gear. January is a difficult month, and a lot of my years of teaching I showed back up to school unprepared. I’d like to help you avoid that. I want you to be ready in January for what’s coming.
This second half may feel like it drags at times, but it passes quickly. Soon it will be end of the year season. Many times at the end of the year, I’ve regretted not being more prepared at the beginning. So here are three goals I keep in mind to help my students get a refresh and restart to the school year.
Reset #1: Review My Expectations or Rules and Classroom Routines
In a way, our students are completely new when they return back to the classroom in January. They have had such a long stretch of time with no schedule and routine that they almost forget how to function through a school day. Don’t expect your students to be able to do the same things the same way they did in December.
I call this January Amnesia. They come back as blank slates. It doesn’t take as much coaxing as at the beginning of the year, but your students will still need some training. I blame it on the YouTube binges. It’s like their brains are turned off, and now we have to push the button to get them back on! We have to remind them they have expectations and responsibilities.
Ease Into Routine
My suggestion is to not plan a lot of important content that first week back to school. It’s just like the beginning of the year. We can’t expect them to know exactly what to do and when to do it. Definitely plan content, it’s not that they can’t do anything, just don’t plan as much as you normally would.
I’ve learned the hard way to not come in with big plans to start new routines, new schedules, and new material the first few days back in school. It’s just too much to begin with. We have to take baby steps each time we make changes to our school day.
I have big goals and plans for myself each January 1st. I’m going to read more, walk more, lose that extra weight, and it never happens. It’s just too much change too quickly. If I set one goal for the year, achieve that, and habit stack a new goal on top of that, I could be more successful.
Our students are already overwhelmed by getting up early again, coming out in the cold (depending on where you live), and they’re also feeling the aftereffects of all that technology use. They’ve been on their iPads the last couple weeks, and now you’re telling them they can’t. Let them get back into their old routine from December before you set something new in front of them.
Reset #2: Refresh My Rewards and Student Recognition Systems
I know you’re probably saying, “But Toni, you just said not to start anything new in January!”
I did, but this is completely different. If you look back over the last few months, and your behavior was bad, this is a perfect time to change it up to give you better results for the second half of the year. I’m not suggesting you find a complicated reward system you have to explain and demonstrate. It is a good time to evaluate what you were using, recognize what was or wasn’t working, reset as needed, and reward students for their positive behaviors.
When I taught kindergarten, I would usually start a sticker card reward system in January. Until December, my normal rewards, the easy things that I do in the classroom, would work just fine. But in January, my students really needed some extra motivation.
So I would print out ten frames and buy stickers from the Dollar Tree. When a student filled a card, they would get a reward. That might be extra recess, no homework, or extra computer time. It really worked well in kindergarten. You can grab a download for the sticker reward system HERE.
My second graders don’t need that level of motivation, so now I’m looking for ways to motivate my students virtually. I’ve already been using things like cheers and boys vs. girls. If you haven’t found them, I have a set of virtual rewards for free HERE. They’re easy ways to reward students virtually, but they work well in person, too.
Just remember that our students always need recognition. They need to feel competent and capable to learn at the optimal level. Whether you believe in rewards or not, please be sure to recognize students for their effort somehow.
Reset #3: Give Your Parents and Families a Refresh
Family involvement is so important to student success, especially at the primary level. Our students are very reliant on the adults in their life to support them. Don’t forget that families need a refresh too. They need your support now just like they did at the beginning of the school year.
Back in August and September when we went virtual, I knew that most of my evenings would be filled with supporting parents with tech support and the things they needed to help their student be successful. I’m going to approach January with the same mindset. Let’s not get upset when they forget things they once knew. Let’s be a little more lenient as we give them time to get back to their prime, too.
Share Information and Expectations
This would be a great time to consider a parent meeting to refocus on goals and expectations. You could even record a video and make it a graded assignment. If you’re teaching in person, consider sending home a QR code that links to the video with a few short questions they have to answer and sign to ensure they saw the video.
This is also a good time to mix things up with your communication. Evaluate what you’ve used up to this point. Do you feel your parents are highly engaged and know what to do, how to contact you, and how you will contact them? If so, you’re probably doing a great job in this area.
If you don’t feel connected, and you know this is an area of improvement, the first week back is a great time to send home new information about how you’ll communicate with your families. Use this as a new opportunity to improve what you’re doing.
Don’t look at what you’re already doing and accept it as how it has to be the rest of the year. Families will be rested and ready to do something new in order to get through the rest of the school year.
I hope you take these goals, add to them, and have the best second half of the school year ever with a little bit of a reset in January.
Have you visited the Primary Teacher Friends Facebook group? Every Friday, I’ll be posting a review that a customer on TPT has left on one of my products. In that post, you’ll find directions to enter to win whatever that product is.
You can also enter to win a $50 Amazon card by writing a review of the podcast episode, taking a screenshot of your review, and posting it in the Facebook group. I’ll do the December drawing a little early this year so you can use it for Christmas if you’d like, but if you enter after you’ll be entered in the January drawing.
Reviews help so much to spread the word about the blog and podcast. Growing our community enables me to keep sharing information and resources.
I hope you have a wonderful, restful Christmas break and get yourself all reset and recharged to tackle the second half of this year. I appreciate you, and I’m thankful for the hard work you’re putting in for your students!