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Teaching Opinion

‘Tis the Season for Two Kinds of R & R

By David Ginsburg — December 17, 2011 2 min read
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I couldn’t have been more relieved when winter break arrived my first year as a teacher. Two weeks of R & R. No lessons to plan. No papers to grade. And most of all, no kids to clash with.

My break got off to a blissful start. I slept late, worked out, and spent time with family and friends. But after a few days, I became preoccupied with one thought: each day that passed was one less day until I’d have to return to my chaotic classroom. My restful break had suddenly become a restless one.

I wallowed in despair for a day or two before concluding there was only one way to alleviate the dread I felt about returning to my classroom: make sure I’d be returning to a different classroom. My time off could no longer just be about rest and relaxation. I would also have to engage in another kind of R & R: Reflection and Regrouping.

I started by reading the journal I had been keeping since September. It was painful to relive day upon helpless day of classroom chaos, including the time I was decked trying to break up a fight. But it was also productive. As I wrote in my first post on this blog, owning your classroom woes is the first step toward overcoming them. And it was during that first winter break when I began to see my role in various classroom problems and find solutions to them.

I’ve shared many of those problems and solutions in previous posts. But more important than the actual changes I made are the process that led to those changes (Replacing Classroom Chaos With Control) and the protocols for implementing them (Rolling Out Classroom Changes). And even more relevant to my main point here was the timing of such changes.

A lot of people think it’s important for teachers to be reflective, and I agree. But who has the time, energy, or focus to reflect and regroup in meaningful ways when you’re teaching all day and grading papers all night? The best time to reflect and regroup is when you’re away from the daily grind and can think with a clear mind.

A lot of people also think it’s futile to make classroom changes mid-year. In fact, I often hear teachers say they “can’t wait until next year” to do something differently. But rather than think of September as next year, think of January as next year, since the first day back after break can feel like a new year for students and teachers alike. Approach the first day back as though the slate is clean, and kids will respond accordingly.

So, whether you need to refine your practice or completely regroup like I did as a first-year teacher, take time over the holidays to ensure your classroom is a better place when you go back. And you may have a better break as a result, since it’s hard to rest or relax if you’re dreading having to return to the classroom.

Best wishes for R & R and R & R over the holidays, and a happy new year!

Image by Rox_amar, provided by Dreamstime license

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