Teaching Before a Vacation

Winter break’s a doozy.

Extended vacations are the full moon of teaching.  A Friday 7th period class before a three day weekend is rough.  A Friday 7th period class before winter break is hell.

All long breaks provoke squirrely behavior.  Actually – let’s back that up.  All holidays and all long breaks provoke squirrely behavior.  Halloween?  Sugar. Lots and lots of sugar.  Add in masks, zombis, blood and the inevitable sexy French maid outfit.  Voilá!  Mayhem.  Valentine’s day?  Sugar. Hearts, teddy bears, balloons and crying.  Lots and lots of teenage girl crying.  Spring break? Warm weather, short shorts, teenage hormones, and the prospect of nine days without school?  A PDA-fest.

But winter break?  Oh yeah.  The perfect storm of insanity.

You’ve got the longest break of the school year in the visible future. The semester’s over, so grades are pretty much set in stone and students’ I-give-a-crap levels are low.  Large numbers of baked good are present on a daily basis for about one week prior (building nicely into a slow,  sugar-fueled crescendo,) teenage couples are anxiously stressing over what to buy for/they will receive from significant others while simultaneously dreading their heartbreaking forced separation while their families travel.  The weather sucks, trapping said hormone-crazed, sugar-filled, I-don’t-give-a-crap teenagers inside.   Then there’s the inevitable home stress that the holidays so frequently bring for everyone.  Two weeks corraled with only your crazy family and annoying siblings for company.  If you’re lucky enough to have a family.

And teenagers usually aren’t that fond of school to begin with.

Perhaps I can summarize all of this in a mathematical formula for you math and science teachers.  You’ll have to pardon me if my skills are a little rusty.  I left my last college math class crying tears of joy, dancing the tango, and thowing flowers at all I passed.  Nothing against your subject area, or anything.

Upcoming long vacation + semester end + Christmas cookies  +  teenage gift-giving + adolescent romantic couples + cold weather + being cooped up inside + family drama =

My own personal nightmare.

By 7th period the day before break, most teachers  have thrown in the towel and are doing one of two things:  either telling the kids it’s a review day for exams and tossing worksheets at them, or giving up completely and showing a movie/throwing a holiday party.  Crowd control, I’ve heard it called.  Just praying to make it through the last chaotic day before we release the hooligans back to the parents from whence they came.

Time to have a little fun.

You’re fried.  The kids are fried.  The chances of them settling in, studying, and learning anything more in the next 50 – 90 minutes when they’ve done the same thing in all their other classes and they see freedom (sweet freedom!) on the horizon, is virtually nil.  But what if they actually reviewed information in a manner which they remembered?  And what if it involved minimal work for you?  And what if it kept them from climbing out the windows or whacking a neighbor over the head with a binder?

Sound too good to be true?  Yeah.  It probably is.  The energy level on a pre-vacation day is always going to be one hair short of a room full of puppies snorting espresso, but some of that energy can be wrangled into entertaining (and occasionally even productive) use.  Which brings me to my next round of Useful Junk: Your Lesson Plan for Pre-Winter Break.


Enjoy.  And as usual, pass on at will!

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