Teachable Moments that Combat Holiday Stress

Maura O'Reilly

I’m posting this article a little early so I catch you before you feel overwhelmed by the events that keep us all busy in December.

A lot of holiday-related articles will begin popping up on your social media feed. Some may have you feeling you are a bad teacher if you don’t pull out the glitter and sparkles.

Instead of feeling guilty, take a step back and look at why we do all the things we do (or try to do) as the holiday season comes towards us. The world does not need more stuff - and even if the stuff is awesome, it does not have to be produced in your classroom. There are so many teachable moments during the holiday season.

Keep your sanity, as a teacher, by focusing on what is important to you and how you want your students to begin 2018. Read this list when you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything you think you are supposed to do before your class takes a Christmas break.

1. Helping the community.

It’s going to be a Merry Christmas whether kids make something out of popsicle sticks or not. Making crafts is something that has become the norm but is unnecessary. It is lots of fun and nice for kids to have something to give others, I agree. However, there are other options you may find more enjoyable. Ask students: who & how can we help around the school? In our community? Who can we learn from? Show students the lasting difference positive actions can make. Instead of making and/or selling things, focus on changing the child by teaching values such as generosity, patience, understanding, and open-mindedness.

2. Kindness within the classroom.

Find ways to encourage students to do kind acts for each other. Perhaps they can pick names at the start of the day and do a kind act for that person. At the end of the day, ask everyone to guess who picked who. Or it can be completely anonymous as many great acts of kindness are. Dig deep into the meaning of and reason for spreading joy.

3. Giving and receiving.

Talk to students about how to give and receive gifts. What do you say to a gift giver? What happens if you don’t really like what you get? What if you don’t get a gift back in return? Why do people choose to buy you a present? What factors affect what people choose to give?

4. Cultural investigation.

Try to make this year a little different. Find lesser-known music, a forgotten tradition, discuss holiday practices in places we don’t hear much about. Parents often love to come in and share what happens in their homes. This does not need to involve bringing in anything for the students. It could turn into a great writing and/or reading activity. Bring in several parents and compare and contrast. Bring in your own parents, family, neighbours, friends! Make it enjoyable for yourself too!

5. Honouring faith.

There are always concerns about students who don’t celebrate the same holidays or any holidays at all. Make your classroom a place where it is safe to be that child. Bring all topics into the light and take the opportunity to teach all students how to interact with people whose beliefs they do not understand or agree with.

Don’t let a Grinch steal your Christmas. It’s a beautiful time of year. Share that joy and peace with your students, your community, and most of all, enjoy it yourself. 

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