We are in the midst of the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” That is unless you are just trying to keep your head above water and your students from climbing the wall. While the season is full of magic for some, for others, the holidays bring anxiety and frustration. Students with developmental delays, social emotional deficits or other environmental stressors often struggle with the disruption and unpredictability that accompanies the season. Below are some strategies to help both students AND teachers enjoy the month of December.
Helping Students Through the Holidays
Prepare the Student Each Morning
- Update visual schedules each day. Knowing what to expect throughout the day will reduce your students’ Anxiety. Be sure to create an image such as a star or “detour” sign, for example, to indicate a change or surprise in the day’s routine.
- Create a list of acceptable responses when an unexpected change occurs during the school day.
- Using SiLAS, create an animation with the student that focuses on how to deal with changes and surprises in our routines. Review the video each morning.
Give Your Students Brain Breaks
- Incorporate movement into your students’ day. After each activity, allow the students the opportunity to get the wiggles out. Gonoodle, yoga and stretches are just a few options to use with students.
- Assigning students with a job, such as delivering a letter to the office, will provide him/her the opportunity to move and serve a purpose is a great way to keep a student engaged in the day’s activities.
- Build in sensory breaks before and/or after an undesired or lengthy activity or task.
Design Activities Using the Students’ Interests
- Assign the student a familiar “high interest/low stress” option to help prevent over stimulation during classroom celebrations or unstructured activities.
- Choose an app a student can access and navigate independently to reduce anxiety and periods of wasted time.
- Provide intentional and specific positive reinforcement several times throughout the day to encourage the student to continue making good choices.
December Survival Tips for Teachers
Consistency is Key
- Following daily classroom routines will make your life easier. Providing students with visuals they can easily access gives you a break from answering the same questions all day long! Adding images to accompany each expectation makes the agenda accessible to all students.
- Much like following classroom routines, keeping consistent behavior expectations is equally important. Students have a tendency to push limits and cross boundaries. Continuing to reinforce the positive behaviors and carryout consequences for inappropriate behaviors will save you some headaches and students attempting to argue.
- During this time, even those who don’t work with children have a million and one things on their plate. Set clear boundaries for how you spend your evenings. Implement a “cut-off” time for completing work tasks such as grading papers, answering emails or lesson planning.
- Learning to say no can be a big stress relief. As educators, our nature is to want to help anybody anyway we can. Often, taking on more responsibilities adds more stress to this hectic time of year.
- Do something for yourself. Having a full plate makes it next to impossible to even entertain the thought of doing something for ourselves. Our internal dialogue often tells us to feel guilty for taking time out to just “be.” No guilt! You deserve it.
Enjoy the Season!
- Be Merry!