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December's Teacher Success Tips

Giving Opportunities, Focus on Student Mental Health, and Relaxation

(Psst, teachers! This is ONE MONTH in my popular 12-month series! See the whole series here and have an awesome year!)

Hi Teachers, Happy December!

December is a great month to be an educator. Who’s with me!?

This month may be short but it sure is mighty. Primary and elementary friends are incorporating winter-themed decor and lessons throughout their day. Students are learning holiday songs and those classic winter tunes – culminating in those oh-so-cute nighttime music performances.

Trips through the staff room are rarely empty-handed; parents and colleagues share their gratitude with cookies, desserts and confections. School teams enjoy an afternoon holiday party filled with camaraderie, gift exchanges and non-work talk (if only for a few minutes).

Make the most of December (and the rest of the year) with these tips from a fellow educator! I wish each of you time to reconnect with those you love over Winter Break. May you find relaxation, rejuvenation, and gratitude.

Did you miss the previous months’ Best Practices? Check out September, October and November!

The Spirit of Giving

There are many families in our community in need this time of year, and there are lots of opportunities for service learning. Consider if there’s a project your class or school can take on to help. Choose your project strategically:

Which nonprofits are seeking support? Is this a school-wide project, or specific to your classroom? How old are your students? What is a reasonable expectation for how much they can help? How much time will this require during or outside of school hours?

Based on the answers to those questions, check out these Giving Ideas for schools or classrooms:

Book Donations: Scholastic Teacher Store offers 50 Books for $50 now through December 31st (while supplies last). Why not raise money in your school or class to buy books and donate to another group?

Giving Tree: Many schools host Giving Trees, often located in the main office or front entrance of school. To make a Giving Tree, either the school or a non-profit organization identify families in need, then create tree tags that outline what that family needs. Use your Cricut or Silhouette to cut out snowflakes or star shapes, then fill out each tag for the tree. (I offer lots of shapes on my Etsy store – use Promo Code 2019JOY and save 10% off your entire cart.) “Ex. Adult female, size 8, winter boots.” Students, parents and staff members can shop for families by taking a tag, buying what is listed, and returning the purchases to school.

Food Drives: Non-perishable and canned food drives are easy to do anytime of the year. Simply provide visible drop-off containers for students and families and communicate with students and families. Incentivize the Drive by offering a party or Free Time to the class that brings in the most items. A thought on equity…there are creative ways to let students “give” that don’t cost money, too. Allow students to donate their time and let that be counted!

Clothing Drives: In my community, there are drives for all types of clothing – kids coats, kids boots, gloves, adult coats and more. These don’t take a ton of work – just a place to put the donations, some communication, and a plan to donate when the drive is over. Be sure to ask families to wash their donations first – this will save everyone time in the end.

Be Extra Patient with Students

It’s a funny phenomenon – the shortest weeks feel like the longest weeks in school! December is the same way – short month = LONG month! We educators have long known that this time of year can be really tough for many of our students, and they may struggle to act their best while at school. For some students, challenges at home make for less predictability and structure. Financial worries, family pressures and more pile on in December, and kids are not great at hiding these impacts. These worries often come out in students’ moods and behaviors. I work in a secondary school so the first Trimester ends in December; this compounds the December struggles. We see an increase in frustration and defiance among students in the two-three weeks leading up to Finals. I think the reason why is threefold: there’s pressure to do well on Finals and projects; some students see they’re too far behind to pass so they give up; others are struggling with the approaching change of the Trimester – new classes, different teachers, changes in classmates. Sometimes we underestimate students’ ability to navigate change; these can all be hard on kids.

I share this to remind us all to be extra patient and loving with all students this month. The kids who need our love the most often show us in the least loving ways. I recently came across a Pin on Pinterest: “They aren’t giving me a hard time; they are having a hard time.” I know that you’ll continue to take deep breaths, “be the adult,” and keep loving kids – no matter how unloving they may act in return.

Time for Reflections – Personal and Professional

December marks the end of a great year, and the beginning of your best year yet! December is a great time to reflect on the highlights of the year, and set goals for one to come. Consider doing some reflecting with your students, and certainly with friends. I’ve created a FREE Year-End Reflection PDF for you to use!

My best friend and I have a tradition of spending New Year’s Eve together. We often visit a new city, enjoy a delicious dinner and ring in the new year with lots of reflection and conversation. Each year we bring reflection questions for one another, allowing us to really think about the wins and growth of the past year.

Shop Those Sales – Gifts for Others and You

There’s no denying that this is one of the best times of year for shopping. Each year it seems as though “Black Friday/Cyber Monday” deals launch sooner and sooner. And whether or not you’re a fan of the holiday shopping frenzy, you must admit – there’s some pretty great deals out there! One of my favorite sales is Scholastic Teacher Store’s 50 Books for $50 sale. I love to buy books to share with my kids as well as to gift to others! There’s so many great selections that I might not otherwise try – at $1 each, it’s a steal! It’s no secret that we’re an Amazon-shopping family. Check out my compiled list of TOP savings for educators this year’s shopping season.

And don’t forget about Small Business Saturday! There are amazing gifts and deals when shopping local. That’s where I’ll be.

Most Importantly – Relax!

Finally, December is an important time for each of us to rejuvenate and recharge our batteries. Education is a tough business. It’s never ending, complex, and we can go long stretches of time without seeing the fruits of our hard work and love. Be sure to take time this month for you. Do what recharges you best – whether that’s being creative, spending time with your family and friends, or traveling. Perhaps you’re a movie binger and you’ve got a stack of shows to catch up on. Whatever refills your bucket, let it happen without regret or judgement. I know how hard you work, and take it from me: You deserve it.

Here’s to an amazing December for each of you! Your kids are so lucky to have an educator like you who cares about them, cares about his/herself, and shows up daily giving 110%. In case no one told you today – thank you for all you do!

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