Even though I’m always completely tapped out by January 1st, I love this time of year! I haven’t changed much since I stayed up half the night in high school hanging snowflakes all over my house to surprise my family. Though the holiday season can be stressful, there are lots of ways it can bring you joy and help you build community in your school. Here are six of the most successful ideas I’ve been part of over the years. #1 Operation Secret SantaWho doesn’t love a pleasant surprise? Organizing a secret santa exchange among your students, teaching team, club participants, or players can bring everyone closer and add delight to December. This year I am doing it with my advisees, and I designed these cute Secret Santa slips for giving them partners. Download them free, print them out and fill in the names. Easy!
#2 Host a Cookie ExchangeI’ve done cookie exchanges with other faculty and with my student cooking club, and both were big successes. It’s so fun to have dozens of kinds of cookies to eat and share over the holidays, but who wants to bake 30 kinds? Who has the time?! For a cookie exchange, just invite others to bring in one type of cookie (and lots of ’em!) and a big container to a get-together. Put on a little holiday music, add a bit of warm cider, and you’ve got a party! Everyone walks around and helps themselves to several of every cookie. December never tasted so good.
#3 ELA Teachers: Try a Reading Challenge over BreakLike so many English teachers, I love to read. And I love it when my students love to read. So it makes me happy, come December, to start promoting my winter break reading challenge. If students can get a BINGO on one of my winter break reading cards, I’ll reward them with a prize when they get back. Talk up the challenge and the prizes during the month of December. Bringing in a shelf of library books you know they’ll love doesn’t hurt!
#4 Reach out in Your CommunityHelp students give a gift of themselves this holiday season. Let them help you choose a project, whether it’s collecting coats for a local homeless shelter, doing a book drive for the Prison Library Project, making ornaments for a surprise school tree you put up together by the front door, writing letters to deployed soldiers through Operation Gratitude, or some other initiative that is meaningful to your class. By helping others, you will also build a stronger bond with your students and your community.
#5 Include Holiday Activities in your Day-to-DayThere’s no reason you can’t include a bit of holiday fun while learning what needs to be learned. Math students can do story problems about Christmas shopping and the amount of time it takes Santa to visit every house in a city, physics students can try to design gingerbread structures that support great weights, English students can write holiday stories, experiment with holiday sensory details, or practice writing holiday metaphors and similes. Whatever your discipline, it’s easy to add a bit of cheer into a handout now and then.
#6 Surprise your Teaching Team with a TreatOnce when I was coaching a long tennis match, one of my player’s moms offered to grab Starbucks for me. I was so surprised! It was a small but lovely gesture. Last year I brought smoothies for all my son’s preschool teachers on a ninety degree day, and it made me glad to be able to do a small thing to brighten their day. Maybe you can launch “Donut Fridays” for your teaching team or grab lattes for all on the way to work. You’re spirits will get a lift when you see how happy you make everyone else.
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