I HATE vacations…
Yup, I said it!
I know there may be a few of you about to chastise me, but bear with me…
How many of us ACTUALLY take some time for ourselves?
How many of us ACTUALLY get a break?
Instead, how many of us spend our time planning, prepping, working on IEPs, or writing evaluations?
Yup! There you are! I knew it!
So many of us don’t take time off during vacations. I know that I’m supposed to “relax and rejuvenate,” but if I can be honest, I never do that. I don’t put my feet up nor binge Netflix. Though it sounds really nice…
What do I do?
I think of work more often than I should. I worry about whether some of my students are getting enough food, being taken care of, or whether they are just driving their parents crazy. I hope all is well, but I wonder if everything is okay. I think about the worst situations that could happen and dwell on the limitless possibilities. I know my students’ parents can take care of their child. They have done it before I met them and they will continue to do it long after I teach their child. I do have faith in that.
I’m a worrier. It’s what I do. I worry about all the little things that could go wrong or be “undone” due to the change in schedule and lack of structure. I wonder what my students will be like when they come back after break. I over-think all the things that could go wrong. I know, it’s a bit much, but I know that I’m not the only one…
I wonder if my students will come back from break refreshed, relaxed and rejuvenated. Or frazzled, confused, and irritable from the lack of consistency and routine? Or maybe a little of both?
Maybe you will have parents that stick to a routine and schedule and will make the transition back to school that much easier. Or, you may not. You can’t control what happens at home, so might as well let that one go.
But, I do want to take a little burden off your shoulders this vacation, so I am going to give you some easy steps for getting your students back into the school routine no matter what how they come back to school.
1. Reestablish Procedures
Your students will probably come back from vacation forgetting at least a few of the rules or procedures of classroom. They may not have had as much structure at home during the break, or they may just simply have rules that are different. There are certain battles that you pick at school that your students’ parents may not pick at home. And that’s okay. It’s par for the course. Reintroduce any procedures, rules or routines that may need a bit of tuning. This may mean you need to review whole class rules, or you may just need to remind one student of what to do when he finishes his cubby routine, either way, reintroducing procedures will help your students get back on track faster.
2. Get Back on Schedule ASAP!
Whenever I come back from a break, I immediately try to jump back into the schedule. I try to stick as closely as I can to it without causing stress on my students. I expect them to be tired, cranky, and non-compliant, so if my students cannot follow the schedule as closely as they once could, that’s okay. It’s to be expected. It would almost be strange if they all showed up ready to follow a strict routine again, wouldn’t it? And hey, your job wouldn’t be as much fun, right? Do your best to stick to the schedule, but be flexible. You may have to work using a loose schedule for a few days or weeks as the students readjust. Plan as if everything will go swimmingly, but be flexible if chaos ensues. Never use the first few days back to school as a time to teach new topics. This may cause more anxiety, frustrations, and meltdowns. Slowly tighten up the gaps in a loose schedule and your students will be back to their normal routines in no time.
3. Make Sure You Have the Materials!
If your classroom is anything like mine, as soon as that last bus rolls out the day of vacation, you are ready to get out too! I know as soon as I see my last student load the bus, I cross my fingers that there will be no problems, and kiss that bus goodbye! I tidy the class up a bit and stack chairs in hopes that my coordinator will let us all leave early. A well-deserved start to your vacation, leaving early can be so nice!
But what’s that mean for your first day back? A clean classroom with no student schedules prepared, no prepped work, or calendars set. This means that you must have your “you know what” together by the time students come in that first day back, or you will need to sacrifice sometime during the break to re-set your classroom for the new year. No matter which option you choose, make sure you have the materials ready for when the students arrive at school.
4. De-brief Staff
All too often, vacations are the only time that I have a chance to think. Like I said, I tend to think too much and over-analyze my classroom. This can be a good thing too though! When I overthink complex behaviors or procedures that are just not working, I tend to find a solution, or ten. So, over-thinking is not always a bad thing. Use it to your advantage to be productive! Take a few of the ideas that you have come up with and discuss them with the staff. Find some time to discuss with your support staff any plans for change in the classroom. You could do this over a cup of coffee, Skype, or through email. Just make sure you do it! Your staff will need time to process a change and they may even be able to give you some insight into which of your ideas that they think will work best. The best situation here would probably be to discuss your ideas, ask for feedback and work constructively on solutions for a smoother classroom.
And there you have it! The four steps you need for getting your students back into the swing of things after a vacation.