The last day of Thanksgiving break is here . . . and there are only fifteen school days until Winter Break. The first semester is almost gone, teachers are tired, students are holiday-hyped, and falling into the between-holidays slump can be all too easy. It's only fifteen days, right? So what if we show the film version of The Christmas Carol?
Because we know every single day counts. We know there will be factors we can't control (you know, like the fire alarm going off multiple times a day, three or four days in a row. No, I"m not kidding. I now know all three of my groups of 8th graders can evacuate the building in less than two minutes -- and that they can work through the alarm if we are told to shelter in place!). With those factors in mind, we know we can't give up any instructional days. So how does one avoid the temptation to fall into the "hey, it's one day" slump?
1) Plan, plan, plan.
I am notorious for planning way ahead, but I can be flexible when need be. That two-day plan is going to take three? I can roll with that. But not having a plan is a recipe for non-maximized instructional time. I have an overall plan of what I want to accomplish with my kids over the next three weeks. Will we get everything done? Probably not -- but I have my priority standards, my strategies aligned to those standards, and my acceleration and differentiation planned. I can adjust as kids need me to, but because I know where we're going, we won't fall into what-am-I-going-to-do-today fluff.
2) Make sure the kids know the game plan.
I don't know about yours, but my middle school students need structure. They need to know what we are doing, why we are doing it, and what they will get out of it. I post a calendar on the door, we review what we're doing, and we connect all the dots. Do they want to do all the work? No, they're middle schoolers. I have found, though, that if the kids know the plan, they are less likely to try to pull me into that holiday slump with them. Besides, they want to learn and do well, even when they say they don't want to.
Those are my two big tips. What works for you to keep you and your students out of the slump?