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2 Easy Things All Teachers Should Do Before Winter Break [episode 40]


Click below to hear 2 things teachers should do before winter break:

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Overview of episode 40:

In the weeks before a big break, especially winter break, teachers are in survival mode. You’re managing behaviors, planning lessons, and balancing expectations and fun festive activities. There’s probably a countdown to winter break on your desk, but before bolting out the door, we think there are a few last minute things to cross off your to-do list. In today’s episode, we’re sharing 2 easy things teachers should do before winter break to prepare for classroom success in January. 

Trust us, we don’t want to add more to your already full plate. However, our two easy tips are more enjoyable than a burden. These tips are things teachers should do before winter break because the goals are simple: give yourself a boost and get you excited to come back to school. We share what they are and examples to get you started.

You’ve worked hard and put everything you have into creating an academic and welcoming classroom for your students the first half of the school year. So in order to enjoy your break and get you refreshed to finish the school year, implement our two easy tips on what teachers should do before winter break!

Highlights from the episode:

[00:54] Today’s morning message: what is something you do, or plan to do, to take care of yourself during winter break?

[3:05] Resource of the Week: Morning Messages 1st – 4th Grade

[4:25] Tip #1 on what teachers should do before winter break to make January successful.

[7:24] Tip #2 on what teachers should be before winter break to make January successful.

[10:28] Today’s teacher approved tip for preparing for a fun (and low effort) first day of school celebration.


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Read the transcript for episode 40, 2 Easy Things All Teachers Should Do Before Winter Break:

Hey there, thanks for joining us today. In today's episode, we're sharing two things all teachers should do before winter break to prepare for classroom success in January.

We start our episodes with a morning message, just like we used to do at morning meeting in our classrooms. This week's morning message is what is something you do or plan to do to take care of yourself during winter break? Emily what are your winter break plans? I really like to do a puzzle over winter break. Just that time of year more than any other time. I just enjoy having a puzzle out that we can all wander over and do together. I already have one picked out for this year. Also hope they don't abandon you with it like they did last year. Yeah, that was a rough go at the end of that one. And then they wanted to put the last piece in and I was like, Oh, no. Oh, no, you did not earn that last piece.

What are you going to do over winter break, Heidi? I really, okay, let's just say it's a plan. We'll see what happens. My plan is to try and get ahead with work so I can actually take some time off. Because it's been a while. And then I this is silly. I've had to start a list of like, things I could do with some free time because I know like if I got there and I had a day off I just be like, yeah, like can we do? It's been so long since we had any free time. So I'd probably just end up working. So got my list of things I want to do. And I'm going to try and get ahead for work. We will see how it goes. I wish you luck. Thank you.

We also have some responses from our community. Stephanie said read, ensure house is clean before I go back, visit with friends, say no when I want to, and get out in nature. Oh, all of those sound really good. I loved to say no when I want to. That's a good one. Jessica said sleep in. Yes, Jessica. Do it! Fill that sleep bank. Amy said my family and I are taking a family vacation we leave the day after Christmas. Oh, that sounds more exhausting than anything. Jennifer said declutter my house. That's always such a good feeling. Yes, because you will be so grateful come January that you have a clean house to come home to after work. And Dale said sleep and read and drink wine. Go Dale. We'd love to hear your response to this and other questions over in our teacher approved Facebook group or on Instagram at @2ndstorywindow. And that is with the two.

Speaking of morning messages. Now it's time for the resource of the week, which just so happens to be our morning messages for first through fourth grade. Heidi, can you tell us more about these? So each grade level includes a year's worth of questions of the day. And the idea is that you can incorporate this as part of your morning routine. The questions relate to standards in language arts, math, as well as serving to start conversations about classroom community. And all of the messages are editable so you can adjust them however you like.

These messages make a great start to your day and an easy addition to your morning meeting. We did them with our own classes and we love the way they fostered community building. The reason we chose the morning messages for the resource of the week is because each grade level also includes seasonal questions that you can use if you want to. There are two weeks worth of holiday related questions that would be perfect to build your classroom community in December. You can find our morning messages in our shop or at the link in our show notes.

Once you hit the weeks before winter break, there is a good chance that you are probably just running on fumes. Oh yes. So today we want to share with you just two easy things you can do before winter break that will make coming back to school in January a little easier.

The first thing we think all teachers should do before winter break is to do yourself a favor. If you have been here ahwile, you've probably heard us talk about giving a gift to your future self. We love that strategy. And the idea is that you tackle something now that will help you down the road. So before you head off for winter break, think of something you can tackle that your future January self will appreciate already being done.

So kick us off with an example Emily. Well, you could do yourself a favor by clearing the clutter in your room before you take off. Maybe you want to have a completely cleaned off desk, and an empty inbox before you walk out the door on that last day before the break. You will be so relieved to come into that clean space on your first day back in January.

Or maybe you want to figure out a new seating arrangement. That's a great way to freshen things up in your classroom for the new year. And you will be so grateful to yourself if you figure that new seating arrangement out before you leave for the break and not the day you get back in January, then it is just all ready to go. And you won't need to give a single thought over your break. That's so freeing. If you want to hear our tips for planning your seating arrangement strategically and we go into it deep, check out episode 26 of our podcast.

Another favor you could do for yourself is to make a plan for inside recess. If you haven't already had a few days of inside recess this year, you will likely have some ahead of you if you live in any place that gets cold or rainy at this time of year. So gather up some activities you can use for inside recess, or add some new ones to the activities you already have on hand. Some of our favorite inside recess activities are games like Candyland or Uno that are just really simple to play, puzzles with 100 pieces or less are great to have in your collection.

Yeah, and we also really like to have some building materials in our indoor recess supplies. Some magnetic blocks like magnet tiles or magformers are always a hit. You also can't go wrong with a big package of solo cups from Costco either. You'd be surprised how long kids can entertain themselves with a bunch of cups, seriously and are cheap. Yeah. Win, win! You can also find some educational videos like Scholastic Storybook Treasures or links to brain breaks on Go Doodle that you can have ready to go on short notice.

But don't let this tip to do yourself a favor, overwhelm you. Doing a favor for yourself can really be as simple as changing over your calendar or even just writing the new day on the board before you leave for the break. If that is all you have the brainpower for, embrace it. Yeah, the goal here is just to give yourself a little boost. You don't have to tackle a huge project if you don't have the energy for that. And when you walk back into your room in January, you'll have a reason to smile when you see that little favor that you did for yourself.

The second thing we think all teachers should do before winter break is plan something to look forward to. It can be so hard to come back to the daily grind of teaching after a nice winter break. It will be easier to get excited to come back if you plan something fun to look forward to. Yes, I think this tip is so vital because man heading back on that first day can be rough. But having something fun to look forward to even even if all it is is a new pack of flare pins can really help make that transition feel just a little smoother.

One thing that might get you excited about returning to school is tackling something new that felt too overwhelming to start at the beginning of the year. January is the perfect time to start something new in your classroom. You may be thinking something like I'm super overwhelmed here in December and you're telling me to do something new. But we have found that jumping into something new that we've been wanting to try, is a great way to get excited about school again. Seriously, as our 97 year old grandmother says, “A change is as good as a rest.” And she knows what's up.

Sometimes the hustle and bustle of classroom life makes it easy to forget what you love about being a teacher. So doing something new might be just the ticket to reignite your passion for teaching and get you excited about returning to school. Maybe you want to start a new instructional routine, like a weekly vocabulary program, or hands on STEM rotations. Maybe you finally want to start doing morning meeting and if so we can help you out there with episode 28 of our podcast.

But if something new feels daunting to you just keep it simple. The goal is to help you get excited to come back to school not to come back feeling overwhelmed from the start. The key is to identify something to look forward to. So let's keep it uncomplicated. Maybe you want to plan your favorite read aloud in January the one you've been waiting all year to get to. Something fun to look forward to could be planning some surprise and delight like we talked about in episode 35. Getting one of those spinning prize wheels is a popular surprise and delight idea from our teacher approved Facebook community. I can't wait to see how everyone uses them. Just finding something to look forward to will make it so much easier to come back to school in January.

So to recap, here are the two easy things we think you should do before winter break. One. Do yourself a favor, big or small. Find something you can do now as a gift to your future self. And two, find something to look forward to so you can be excited about returning to school after winter break. We'd love to hear what you're going to do before winter break to set yourself up for success over in our teacher approved Facebook group. And we hope you have an amazing winter break and get all the rest and relaxation that you deserve.

Now let's talk about this week's teacher approved tip. Each week we leave you with a small actionable tip that you can apply in your classroom today. This week's teacher approved tip is stock up on New Year's hats and 2023 glasses for a first day of school celebration. Tell us about this Heidi. So I have had this tip on my calendar for months. Because I didn't want to forget to share it. It was just such a fun idea from Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching.

At the end of the first day of school, she hands out New Year's glasses and hats and party blowers. And then they do a countdown from 10 and shout Happy New Year. I love this so much. It looks like just such a low effort way to give a memorable kickoff to the new school year. But the reason that we are sharing a back to school tip in December is because you need to stock up on New Year's supplies now. Oh yeah, you'll be out of luck in August if you want to find those 2023 glasses.

But one thing to keep in mind is to buy more than you'll think you'll need because you don't know how many students are going to have in the fall. When you go to stock up you could definitely take advantage of clearance sales and buy stuff in January. But as you may have noticed I'm a bit high strung and not knowing if I will be able to find exactly what I need would stress me out too much. So I would have to buy it all now. Yes.

But if you love a good deal and are cool with possibly having to hit up a bunch of stores to get enough hats definitely take advantage of clearance sales in January. If you want to see Joanne's class do their countdown, she has a video from August 15 on her instagram at @headoverheelsforteaching.

To wrap up the show, we're sharing what we're giving extra credit to this week. Heidi, what are you giving extra credit to? I am giving extra credit to the book The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer. I just listened to it and it's on Scribd if you have a subscription there, and I've really enjoyed it, it was just so cute. It's the story of Rachel, who is the daughter of a famous Rabbi, but she secretly loves Christmas. And then Rachel's summer camp nemesis slash first crush enters the picture. And she and Jacob are reunited as adults, and they have to work together to pull off a big party for the last night of Hanukkah. It was just such a cute read. And I really liked having a seasonal story with a different spin on the holiday stuff that I usually read this time of year. And I am just a couple chapters away from finishing that book. And I have really enjoyed it too. Oh my god, it's a double extra credit.

Emily, what extra credit are you actually giving this week? Well, I'm going in the same vein because I'm giving extra credit to a Hallmark Christmas movie. Yeah, I think we can all agree that those movies are not always worth recommending. But Heidi recommended Ghosts of Christmas Always to me. And it was really cute. It follows Catherine who is a Ghost of Christmas Present, as she helps one soul rediscover his Christmas spirit. But this year has something unusual in store. It was just such a fun premise outside the usual fare. And if you like Hallmark movies, I think you'll like this one. Yeah, that was just a surprising twist. And you cannot always say that about Hallmark movies. True story. In fact, I actually think I might rewatch it which I never do for a Hallmark movie. I missed the very beginning so I do need to go rewatch it. You do.

That's it for today's episode. Remember to do our two easy tips for winter break, and enjoy your break from school.

More About Teacher Approved:

Do you ever feel like there’s just not enough time in the day to be the kind of teacher you really want to be? The Teacher Approved podcast is here to help you learn how to elevate what matters and simplify the rest. Join co-hosts Emily and Heidi of Second Story Window each week as they share research-based and teacher-approved strategies you can count on to make your teaching more efficient and effective than ever before.