Four Tips for Surviving December

November 21, 2017 / by Gretchen Vierstra

It’s that most wonderful time of the year. Well, sort of.

Teaching in December can be tricky and sometimes downright difficult. You may find yourself digging deeper and deeper into your bag of tricks. You may need something fresh to keep you and your students on track. You may simply need a break.

You can survive and even thrive in December! Here are four tips to get you through the holiday season.

Keep Up Your Routines and Expectations

Part of you may be thinking, it’s the holiday season -- time to relax the rules a bit. But the best thing you can do to keep everyone calm and happy is continue to provide all the routines and expectations that your students are accustomed to. Structure helps both adults and kids feel safe, and with excitement running high, now is not the time to forget about your systems. In fact, now may be a good time to check in on things. Watch this video to hear about the importance of establishing and continually revisiting classroom culture norms.

VIDEO: Ready to Learn: Creating a Positive Classroom Culture

VIDEO: Ready to Learn: Creating a Positive Classroom Culture

And, if you think you might need a few new routines to keep things running smoothly, try incorporating one of these ideas:

  • Watch this video to see how using a simple timer keeps everyone on task.
  • Keep students accountable with a Participation Quiz.
  • Build in time to appreciate each other. Watch Encouraging Appreciation to see how one teacher does it.

Be Flexible

While it’s certainly a good idea to stick to your classroom routines, you also need to be open to letting go if necessary. With all of the possible events and activities going on, your best plans may need to be adjusted. In Go with the Flow, Sarah Brown Wessling talks about how she plans for the week and puts schedules on the board for students to see. She tries not to get frustrated when she runs out of time or has to adjust her goals. Take some advice from Sarah, and let go of the fact that you may not get everything done this December. You have January to start fresh.

VIDEO: Go With the Flow: Plan and Adjust 

VIDEO: Go With the Flow: Plan and Adjust 

Another one of Sarah’s tips is to embrace adjusting on the fly when things are just not working out. Have you ever started a lesson only to realize halfway through that it's not going as you imagined? Don’t put yourself and your students through the misery of pushing through it, especially at this time of year. Take a moment to pause the lesson, reflect, and then adjust. Check out When a Lesson Goes Wrong to see a day when this happened to Sarah (and we just happened to be there with cameras).

VIDEO: When a Lesson Goes Wrong

VIDEO: When a Lesson Goes Wrong

Take Breaks

December can be a tiring month for everyone. Keep your students energized and focused by remembering to take breaks and adding a little fun to regular routines. Check out these videos for ideas:




This is certainly the time of year we could all do with a little more deep breathing. If you’ve been wanting to incorporate mindfulness into your teaching, now might be a good time to try it. In Using Guided Relaxation in the Classroom, teacher Anne Mechler shows us how she uses a body scan to center and calm her students. Try using an emotional check-in with younger students.

For your own self-care, be sure to check out Tch Laureate Crystal Morey’s #TchWellness series and our self-care checklist in the Back to School Starter Packs.

Remember, a well-deserved break is in sight! You can do this.

Topics: Class Culture, Lesson Planning, Engagement, Video Playlist, Resources, Teacher Wellness

Gretchen Vierstra

Written by Gretchen Vierstra

Gretchen Vierstra taught middle school for ten years in the San Francisco Bay Area. During her 15+ years in education, she’s also been a department chair, new teacher coach, curriculum developer, and policy analyst. She is Director of Educational Content at Teaching Channel.

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