With much of the district staff on break until January 3rd, we are placing blogging on pause. We will return on January 5th with our first blog of the new year. The Elementary C&I Team wants to wish you a relaxing, rejuvenating break and the happiest new year! See you in 2018!
Supporting our students who are not looking forward to winter break.
For many of us the holiday season is truly like the Andy Williams tune the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” Many of our Rochester Public School students are anxiously anticipating the ten-day winter break from classes. They have holiday plans, will participate in family traditions, festive meals and parties, visit relatives, attend seasonal events, travel and have time to just play with friends and possibly new toys they have received. Looking forward to these things can be exciting. However, as teachers with classrooms of diverse students, we need to be mindful that for some students this is not the case.
Most teachers are very aware of the cultural diversity within their classroom and try to address the holiday season with cultural sensitivity by not promoting one holiday over another. Nevertheless, how can we support the students that are just not looking forward to being away from school for such an extended period? As Trevor Muir wrote in his blog: Not All Students Look Forward to the Holidays:
“While most kids (and teachers!) flee from the school gleefully on the last day, [there are some] that dread the break from school. They miss the structure of the school day; the stability of the classroom: the presence of friends; the free food in the cafeteria; and the love their teachers give them.”
If we take a moment to pause and think about it, it is my guess that each teacher could think of students they work with that will have these feelings of dread for the approaching break. These students do not have family events to look forward to, they will not be receiving gifts, some will wonder who will care for them and others will wonder from where they will get their next meal.
So how can we best support these students? The following is a list (compiled from suggestions from the resources cited below) of ways we can support our most vulnerable students during this time.
Be the listener your students need
Talk privately with your students about what they might be doing over the break so you know which students may need emotional support or help with resources to get them through this time.
Be aware of how you talk about winter break
In his blog, Trevor Muir has excellent advice about how to be sensitive to all students when you talk about winter break. Change the conversation from “What are you excited about?” and “What are you going to get?” to challenge them about what they might accomplish or who they might be able to help out.
Give students the opportunity to serve
As a class brainstorm a list of ways students could help or serve others during the time off. There is always that good feeling you get when you know you have helped or made a difference for someone else.
Provide resources for our students with the greatest needs
If you have a student(s) with resource needs, connect with your school social workers as they may be aware of a more comprehensive list of community resources. Below are some of our local organizations that provide resources for students and families in need.
As much as we would like to, we cannot make this the most wonderful time of the year for all our students, but with a little thoughtfulness we may be able to make it a little less difficult for those that are struggling.
This post brought to you by Julie Ace, Elementary Implementation Associate
Not All Students Look forward to the Holidays, Trevor Muir, https://www.weareteachers.com/supporting-students-winter-break/ Dec. 14, 2017
Parenting Kids As much as we would like to, we cannot make this the most wonderful time of the year for all our students, but with a little thoughtfulness we may be able to make it a little less difficult for those that are struggling.
Who Sabotage the Holidays, https://www.thechaosandtheclutter.com/archives/parenting-kids-who-sabotage-holidays
5 Reasons You might NOT Look Forward to the Holidays, http://wisestressmastery.com/5-reasons-holidays/ December 3, 2015
As educators, we often acknowledge that this time of year is stressful for many of our students. A long break during which schools are closed is often not a joyful thing for students who don’t know where they will be getting food during this time or worry about who will be taking care of them while adults in the family work. While it is important that we recognize the stress our students may be feeling, it is also important to recognize the stress we are under at this time of year. Many educators are hanging on the edge by their fingertips hoping they can make it to that magical event we call “winter break”.
Did you know that behavior referrals tend to spike in late November and the month of December? Is that because students suddenly become that much more difficult to deal with or is it possible we as teachers simply run out of patience for things we have been able to work through up to this point in the year? I don’t have a definitive answer but I do know that teacher stress is very real and can have a very negative impact on students. When we as educators are stressed and not fully engaged in our work, we inadvertently cause our students to become disengaged as well. A disengaged student is often one that then misbehaves, which would help explain our behavior referral spikes.
So what can we do? Here are some tips that may help you not just “hang on” until winter break, but reach it feeling good about the profession you chose and the job you do each day.
1. Identify what is stressing you out
Get out a pen and paper and write it down. Sometimes writing things down helps reduce the enormity of the situation you have created in your mind. It also allows you to systematically tackle the issues before you.
2. Interrupt negativity
Your thoughts can swirl out of control and spill over into your physical world. Stop them in their tracks. Don’t let your thoughts barrel down the tracks of your mind and drive your decisions.
3. Keep a joy journal
Take a minute each day to write down something that day that made you happy/smile/laugh. If you are struggling with a particular student, set a goal in the morning to focus on that one student all day until you find the thing that makes you smile regarding that child.
4. Make time to sleep
We get so overwhelmed with all the things there are that need doing that sleep is often the thing we reduce first, when it is probably the thing we should be increasing first. Get good sleep. Everything seems less daunting when you aren’t exhausted.
5. Spend time with friends who make you happy
While many of us like to commiserate together, it is more important than ever to avoid this type of interaction during high stress times. Instead, treat yourself to time with people who make you laugh until it hurts!
6. Commit to being in the moment
When you catch yourself caught up in rehashing something that has already happened, or worrying over what might happen in future days, pause and bring yourself back to the moment you are currently in and focus on just that moment and the person/people with whom you are spending it.
As we navigate through each of our individual stresses and glance at the calendar to count down the days until we reach that magical “winter break”, I encourage you to remember this; our profession may be stressful but it is never boring. When you reach what you think is the end of your rope, remind yourself why you chose this profession in the first place and grasp that rope with renewed energy.
This post brought to you by Rebecca Mecikalski, Elementary Implementation Associate
I am no expert on mindfulness, let me be clear; however, I do find joy in reading blogs and articles around the power of the mind and the impact of one’s attitude. At a leadership meeting, Superintendent Muñoz asked us each to name three positive things that happened the day before. I will be honest, it took me a bit to identify three things! I decided right then and there I need to get into the habit of reflecting at the end of my day. I intentionally identify three positive things from the day before I go to bed each night. This has made a difference both in how I sleep at night and how I feel in the morning when I wake up.
Blogger Leo Babauta of Zen Habits writes the way to change our mental habits is “with awareness, with honesty, with an open heart, and with appreciation of the immense joy of life in the midst of chaos.” I find this exceptionally helpful, empowering even, to know that during the busy holiday season, during hectic times at work, when I feel pulled in too many directions to count, I can find joy in my life.
Images taken by Heather Lyke
As you prepare for your winter break, let me encourage a few simple mindful activities that you may try (shared from ‘6 Mindfullness Exercises You Can Try Today’ published by Pocket Mindfulness). I like this list as the activities are simple, can be done quickly and anywhere, while yet having the potential to make a big difference!
Be well. Be good to yourself and others. And remember, you make a difference.
This post brought to you by Jayne Gibson, Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction for Rochester Public Schools
Connect with Jayne Gibson via email or by calling 507.328.4301
f you’d like to explore mindfullness more fully, consider starting the new year off strong by joining one of these two upcoming PD Express courses:
Both begin in January. Connect with facilitator Laura Lenz if you have further questions.
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Members of the Elementary C&I team post useful tools, tips, and tricks on a weekly basis to help you help students.