‘Twas the Lesson Before Christmas

spanishclassBy Nick McDaniels — So what did you teach on the day before winter break? Did you show a movie?

No need to feel guilty. I think a movie is completely appropriate so long as you are spending time with your children. The day before winter break is often sparsely attended for us, though we do offer fun activities in the afternoon for students as a reward for coming to school and these efforts, to the credit of our administration and staff, have been successful.

I purposefully concluded my units two days before break so as not to worry about as many attendance issues on any culminating activities, and on Friday, I watched a film with my students (I had a full lesson planned in case for some reason 100% of my students showed). I did not sit in the back of the room and grade papers, the film was not babysitting, we sat together, watched a movie (one that was exciting, but school appropriate, and loosely curricular).

In between exciting parts and before and after, we talked some, about nothing really, plans for break, school, sports, etc… The day was structured enough so as to feel like school, but certainly, in today’s common core, data-driven culture, my lesson did not measure up to what instructional time should be used for. So what?

Very rarely anymore do we have the chance to spend any social time with our students, to talk to them as people and not just as students, and I, and they I think, really value this time. Did I teach them any rigorous concepts on my lesson before break? Nope. Did I assess them against measurable standards? Nope. I did however seize a great opportunity to build on my relationship with my students, and this, in the long run, will be more memorable for them than the day I tried to teach the kids who showed up something they will never remember.

So if attendance will be low, many of the kids, like the teachers are already mentally on break, why force the issue? Use the opportunity to do something social. Watch a movie. Plan a pot luck. Build community. This will do more for you and your kids in the long run than any efforts to “keep them busy” on the day before the holidays.

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