Michelle Simmons | December 2019

Banish the
Holiday Blues

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! … but is it really? Don’t click away just yet! I promise I’m not the Grinch. In fact, I’m writing this with a Hallmark movie playing in the background. I love Christmas.

But hear me out. 

The holidays are marketed as the best time of year for everyone. However, those of us in the classroom know the reality. The holidays aren’t all they’re cracked up to be for everyoneLast year, I had “that” student. The one that no one wanted. The one who was a terror from Kindergarten through 4th grade. Like a lot of “these” students, I decided to wear him down with my love. (And boy, does he have my heart now.) What I noticed was that every holiday or long break, his behavior would plummet. I knew his home life wasn’t amazing and I knew he was not going to have a traditional happy holiday.

So, that got me thinking: What can we do for these students who we know when they go home for the holidays, it’s not going to look like that Hallmark movie?

Holiday Blues

When I started my research, I was disappointed to not find much on the topic specifically for teachers. I found several articles on how parents can help with the “Holiday Blues” and several of these pointers can be also applied to the classroom. 

Plan

Involve the students in the decision making of your holiday season. The children can help decide what activities to do, what movies to watch, what treats to enjoy. When children have a stake in the plan, the more likely it will ease the stress of the unknown. 

Be Real

Students want the truth. So, if you can’t bring the North Pole to your classroom don’t promise it. Several articles referenced the “Christmas Let Down”. This is where children have these grand expectations and when the adults don’t deliver they feel let down. I think this same concept needs to be in the classroom. Make sure that as you are planning your week and talking about activities, the students have realistic expectations for what is to come! It’s always better to exceed expectations than to not meet them. So don’t promise more than you can do. 

Less is More

You don’t have to plan an elaborate activity every day of the week. In fact, sometimes the smallest activities can mean the most. Think about changing the focus in your classroom from getting to giving. Have the students plan a holiday surprise for another class. This can be as simple as older students sharing a holiday story with younger students. Or secret Santa expeditions where the students leave goodies in other classrooms. This can be simple things like a “Happy Holidays” banner made out of construction paper, or scavenger hunt around the school! 

Be the Example

We have to show students how to truly enjoy the holidays. If we are bringing our personal stress into our classroom, then the students are going to feed off of that. We must do what we can to self-care this holiday season to be the best possible version for our students to see. 

Community Help

When my research didn’t prove to be as specific as I would have liked, I did what every teacher in 2019 would do. I turned to Facebook. Here are a couple of ideas from my Facebook community:

  • Create two gifts for students to take home and even include the wrapping. Steam SoCal says her students create two pieces of art (a ceramic and canvas) for students to take home to give as gifts. I really loved her idea of teaching the students how to wrap presents! 
  • Nancy K. says her students enjoy weaving during this time. The repetition is soothing for the students and this can double as gifts to give(win-win)! 
  • Create a care package for the students to take home. Compile a mixture of letters, stickers, and possibly small trinkets to open on specified dates. This way students have something tangible to open and look forward to throughout the holiday break. – Bethany S. and Wendy M.
  • Use the entire month of December to do some traditional celebrations.This way the students experience them at some point during the season. – Holly V. (After Holly wrote this, I started remembering my personal childhood holiday traditions at school. I can vividly remember my teachers putting up a tree and us getting to decorate it with handmade ornaments.)
  • Forget the curriculum. Spend the week before Christmas as “family time”. – Elizabeth S.

Holiday Overwhelm

The week before the holidays can be overwhelming for all of us. This is amplified when the student is worried about the next couple of weeks at home. Now, I don’t think this teacher meant to throw all the rules out of the window and allow for a free-for-all. I am a huge supporter of routine and consistency and I think that is exactly what these students crave. But try focusing your lesson planning on less intense activities. Keep your structure, but gear it more towards community and STEAM. Hide the curriculum within the fun. 

Below are a couple of good ideas:

https://educationcloset.com/2016/12/08/holiday-village-arts-integration-lesson/

https://educationcloset.com/2016/12/02/steam-classroom-snowflakes/

Pay close attention to those students who may need a little extra love and attention this holiday season. Their misbehaving may be a cry for some stability and a little more TLC. I believe with a little intentionality on the teacher’s part, we can make the holidays special for all students and banish the holiday blues. Here’s to a great holiday season! 

References:

About the Author

Michelle is a 5th grade ELA teacher in Pensacola, Florida. Originally from Mississippi, she has over seven years of experience in grades 2nd - 5th. She holds a Education Specialist Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Delta State University. Michelle is an avid lover of the arts and believes in using them as a gateway to broaden her students' understanding and compassion.