By Molly Underwood / January 15, 2021

New year, new tips, same reason: How to gear up after break

Hats off! You made it to the new year! 🥳 Now, that’s one big achievement to celebrate. But now, after the holiday celebrations are over, hanging out around the house in your pajamas is less justified, but we’re still trying to stay warm during the cold days – it’s time to start gearing up for that room or Zoom full of young people. 

This school year has looked a lot different compared to the norm, but that doesn’t mean your passion for teaching has changed. And, as you start preparing for a new year with a new unknown, planning and preparing will help create a smooth transition for both you and your students! To help you start, we’ve collected tips from members of our Teacher Advisory Group (TAG) on how they plan to transition back to school in their new environment. 

Tip 1: Prepare Before They’re Here

Before school even begins, take time to plan ahead and prepare for the rest of the year. Getting back from break isn’t just hard for your kids, it’s a struggle for adults too! Whether you’re teaching in your classroom or from your kitchen table, take some time to readjust to your normal plan. Try incorporating some preparations like these:

  • Start your routine early.
  • Clean your desk.
  • Prepare your lesson plans.
  • Print copies in advance.
  • Customize your classroom or online classroom.
  • Take some time for you.

I will probably spend 3-4 days in the office over the break ORGANIZING! That really does make me feel more excited about returning.” – Teresa Harrison, science specialist and director

Tip 2: Make the First Day Exciting

Take the first day of class as a reintroduction to school. Instead of jumping in headfirst, try to ease into going back to school. Anything you teach on the first day might go in one ear and out the other (or maybe that was just me as a kid). 

Start the day off by allowing time for your students share about their break. Ask them what they did, any presents they received, or something good that happened to them over break! 

I started off the New Year with students, ‘Tell me something good!’ They shared with me how they received a telescope, moon lamp, celestial lamp. It was fun hearing from them.” – Denise Wright, STEM and science teacher

You probably should assume that your students forgot the procedures you taught them all last year. After weeks off of following your classroom rules and norms, it’s good to remind your students of the expectations and routines to refresh their memories.

To help the students get back into the school routine, we go over our rules and expectations. Then, we do fun ice breakers and team-building activities.
– Natalie Vanderbeck, Grades K-5 title math teacher

You can even talk about what they remember learning about last year, and, if you want to be even cooler, bring in your dad jokes! 

We typically end lessons a day or two ahead of winter break to avoid trying to remember the big stuff that happened before the long break, and getting back to it in January is all of a day or two of, ‘Hey, remember that thing we did last year (insert witty dad joke about last calendar year)?’ From there, we build upon the new concept of lesson.” – Joe Slifka, technology teacher

Tip 3: Keep Students Engaged

This school year has looked a lot different than normal, but I think the winter-break blues will still be the same as before. In the first few days, keeping students engaged and paying attention is a struggle – even more so virtually! Explore fun, open-ended activities to ease your students into school. Try contests and quizzes, hands-on fun, or making your emails more interactive!  

I keep students engaged online with playing video games, having contests/drawings, encouraging them to do activities at home. I try to make learning as fun as possible in a remote environment.” – Denise Wright, STEM and science teacher

Since I am online only now, things are very different. I am trying to use announcements or maybe even a small contest to get responses from students. One thing that we recently had training on was adding GIFs to our emails/announcements to get attention.” – James Jones, science and engineering teacher

Tip 4: Be Flexible

And, most importantly, be flexible. With new information each week, it’s likely things will keep changing. Keep an open mind and continue doing the heart-work you have always done! 

As the first week back from winter break comes to an end, I am still reminded each day that being flexible is just as important now as it was at the start of the pandemic. I still have students switching back and forth between face-to-face instruction and virtual. I am trying to keep students engaged in different ways than I have in the past.” – Michael Clark, STEM teacher

While this year isn’t what we all would have hoped for, your passion for teaching and helping the next generation learn is what it is all about. 

This year has been a challenge, but my kids are still showing up to class and being positive, so I will continue to create.” – Lisa Lewis, gifted intellectual instructor

We’re all in this together, and helping one another is what we love to do! Share your tips on going back this year or ideas on activities. Just leave a comment below.  

We all at Pitsco Education are cheering you on and wishing you the best year!

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TOPICS: IN THE CLASSROOM, ADMINISTRATION & THOUGHT LEADERSHIP, BEYOND THE CLASSROOM, IDEAS & INSPIRATION, Teacher Resources, Resources, Hands-on Learning, Workforce Development

Molly Underwood

Written by Molly Underwood

Hey there! My role here at Pitsco Education is our Marketing Specialist. Days are filled with various marketing projects, managing our robotics social media accounts, and engaging with our TAG members. I am a Kansas State University alumna (GO CATS!) and live on a farm with my husband and Goldendoodle. I love working at Pitsco because of the people and the passion we all have for education.