It’s the first of January and I’ve just sent my students a Remind message that I’m excited to see them at school tomorrow (and that they should try to get some sleep tonight). So far I’ve received reaction icons ranging from hands clapping to faces frowning.
The transition back to school after the long break is a tough one. Everyone has forgotten the routines. Days have been spent playing video games and watching Netflix. No one has been going to sleep at their normal time. The first day back will begin much too early.
Here is my plan to get us through this first week:
1. Greet everyone. Greet them by name. Say hi in the hallways and in class. When you walk around the room to see who’s sleeping, check in with each student. At the end of the period or the day, look over your roster. Did you talk to every student? Did you listen to their response? Do this every day for the entire week.
2. Be kinder than necessary. Instead of just “Good morning,” say “I’m glad you’re here.” If the student is receptive (awake), ask about their break. If they’re not, allow them to be silent. Follow up the next day, or the day after. Make it your goal to sit next to every student at some point and ask “How’s it going?” and get an answer in reply.
3. Bring snacks. Share them liberally. The day will be long enough without a growling stomach at 10 am.
4. Ask how much sleep they’ve been getting. Share your own struggles if you stayed up too late and messed up your sleep cycle. Tell your students what you’re going to do to get back on schedule. Remind them every day of the importance of sleep.
5. Practice grace and forgiveness. There are times to be tough and to hold students accountable, and there are times to practice grace. We don’t know what has happened in our students’ lives during the weeks that we’ve been apart. Sure, they might have been eating candy canes and playing video games all night, but we can’t know that, and we shouldn’t assume. It’s our responsibility to be safe and kind and predictable even when our students aren’t.
We must respond to their crankiness with grace and forgiveness. Only after we’ve reconnected will we be able to get back to learning.