The only thing happier than a kid on Christmas is a teacher on winter break! Holiday breaks are one of the best perks of being a teacher. Despite our best intentions, many of us spend our precious vacation days nagged by thoughts of what we didn't finish and the work we still need to do.
Enjoying a relaxing, rejuvenating break from the classroom requires planning and productivity before your break begins. Complete these tasks before the final bell rings so you can truly enjoy your time off.
Make a List Ahead of Time
When the week before break has you and your students feeling like Will Ferrell in Elf, being productive and tying up loose ends can be hard to do. Making a list of what you need to complete is key to remembering and addressing everything that needs wrapping up.
Further reading: 5 Inspiring Holiday Videos to Show Your Students
The week before break will likely be a whirlwind, so create your list at least a week prior to ensure you have the time you need. Also, aim to have most items completed the day before your last day of school, as we all know the day before holiday break is typically busy and exciting—but not the most productive.
Plan for the First Week Back
Returning from vacation to find you've forgotten your computer login, passwords, and perhaps some of your students' names is a sign you truly enjoyed your break. However, when students return and you have nothing planned, you'll face a swift and painful jolt back to reality.
Before you leave school, make sure your lesson plans for the first day or week are ready and waiting on your desk. Getting back into the routine after holiday breaks is hard, so having detailed plans available will help you remember where you left off and guide you back into teaching your material—even if your brain is still on vacation.
Change Your Bulletin Boards
Returning to your classroom to face Christmas tree bulletin boards and holiday decorations is a real downer. Do yourself a favor and switch your bulletin board to a New Year or winter theme before you leave the building. Many students love helping decorate bulletin boards, so have your students spend the days before break making snowflakes and snowmen before vacation begins.
Have Thank-You Cards Ready
Last year, I sent my own children to school the day before break with gifts for their teachers, and they returned with thank you notes on the same day. While I typically spent break dreading and procrastinating writing my students thank-you notes, I quickly learned there is an easier way. Having thank-you cards available—or maybe even started—is a trick to crossing this item off your list before even leaving school.
Toss All Holiday Treats and Deep Clean Your Room
One year, I brought chocolate-filled treat bags for each of my students the day before break. When three of my students were absent that day, I thought nothing of storing the uneaten treats in my classroom closet until we returned. Imagine my surprise when school resumed and I found only tiny gnawed remains of red, green, and yellow foil wrappers left by the school rodents who had feasted on my gifts.
Learn from my experience, and clean your classroom and dispose of absolutely anything that might attract unwanted visitors. Have students help you deep clean desks, tables, computers, and whiteboards, so the room you come back to looks even better than the room you left.
Further reading: 5 Tips to Help You Survive the Holiday Season
Prepare and complete tasks before break begins so you can enjoy your time off. You deserve it!