The long holiday break is always a great time to unplug, relax, and rejuvenate. There are images all over Twitter of exciting activities for students and staff before the holidays. Teachers often plan together to have special assemblies or events for students. Administrators have special rewards, dress up days, and hot chocolate bars. This is a fun time in preparation for the break. But, as we all know there are students that do not look forward to the break for various reasons, they may not have a stable home, maybe little food, and/or maybe limited funds and there are not any presents. These students yearn to be back in the safe and caring classroom as do many of the students who become bored over the break. The first day back after the break should be as energy filled and enjoyable as the last day before a break. What are we doing as educators to make returning to school for the new year as fun and engaging as the week before break?
Think about that first day back after a break for students and staff, what is the tone and atmosphere of the building? Are we creating a school like “The Pirate” (Dave Burgess) by creating an experience where students are “knocking down the door to get in”?
We are all trying to get things in order, pack up from the holidays and get back on schedule with our own lives and kids. But, what can we do to make this new year at school a celebration of learning for our students?
Let’s have a great first day after vacation and welcome students back with:
- A smile and encouragement – your attitude has a significant impact on your classroom and building.
- “Welcome Back” written on the board or screen – it is nice to have a visual for students that states, welcome back, it communicates, I am glad you are here.
- A small snack on desks with “welcome back” written on the snack bag – many teachers have fun snacks for students the first day of school, why not do this on the first day after a break?
- A goal notecard – students can fill out one side or both sides – one side could be a goal for 2019 that the student has and the other side could be something “you wish I knew about you for the year”.
Remember to treat yourself that first day back, if you love Starbucks, make sure you drive through and get one before your work day begins!
Some ideas for administrators to welcome staff back with:
- An email night before school starts – send a quick email welcoming staff back and include an inspirational quote.
- Coffee in the lounge – as teachers start their first day back it is nice to have some coffee ready.
- Strawberries and kiwi – each spring I would put a platter full of strawberries and kiwi in the lounge, it was a welcomed snack after all the sugary treats the staff had grown accustomed to from vendors and parents.
- Water bottles and pop – your staff may not be coffee drinkers, so have some cold water bottles in the lounge with a note, “thank you for quenching the thirst of our students”.
- A note in the mailbox – each Monday I tried to include a fun fact or quote in teachers’ mailboxes. Sometimes I would attached a small treat to it as well. I would print it on colored paper and toss it in the box. I often wondered if they liked the quote, until one Monday that I forgot to put the note in boxes and a teacher said to me, “Where is the cute note?”. At that point, I figured I needed to get more organized and have the notes in the boxes every Monday!
- A goal notecard for staff – staff can fill out one side or both sides – one side could be a goal for 2019 that the staff member has and the other side could be something “you wish I knew about you for the year”.
Treats and special goodies for staff are nice, but I always like to give them to staff before school, during planning time, or during lunch. I am not a big fan of delivering treats for the teacher only to that staff member in front of this students, and this is why:
When I was in second grade, it was my birthday which meant I was allowed to bring a treat to school. There were five children in my family and we did not have a lot of money, so buying treats just did not happen much. It was a rarity that we were able to purchase a bag of candy, so this was a fun day for me! I was allowed to select a bag of candy that had enough snack size candy bars for the entire class in there, I could only buy one bag. So, three musketeers bars seemed to fit that bill and have enough for all including the teacher. When I got home from the store, I opened the bag to make sure we had enough, and there were exactly 26, which would cover the 25 students and one teacher. The next day, it was my birthday, so I grabbed my books and bag of candy to take to school. As I got off the bus to walk to the school, a boy from my bus shoved me so hard I fell in the snow and the bag of candy went flying. This caused my older brother to send this boy flying across the snow as well. I am not sure who he was or why he pushed me, but reflecting on it, my assumption is that he was upset that I had a bag of candy. I hurried around and picked up all the candy bars, remember the bag was opened because I had to count them. My brother helped me pick up the candy bars too. So, I headed off to my classroom, really unphased by it all. I waited anxiously until most of the day to pass out the birthday treat, and it was finally time so I handed out a candy bar to each student. After gave a candy bar to each child and then I looked in the bag, there was only one snack size candy bar remaining and I needed one and so did the
teacher. At that moment, I realized there must still be a candy bar in the snow, it was a disappointing moment. I had to make the decision, eat that candy bar which I desperately wanted since we did not get many treats, or give it to the teacher. I made the decision to give it to the teacher. I watched all my classmates eat my treat, and watched my teacher eat my treat. This was the same teacher that my brother was terrified of and had stomach aches (I wrote about that in My Favorite Teacher blog post earlier).
My point in reflecting on this memory is just be cautious with treats for teachers only directly to the classroom. It there is a child in that room that is hungry or never gets a treat from anyone, it is very difficult to see a “delivery” for a teacher to their room when it is food and pop. They longingly look at the food if the teacher is eating or drinking in front of the class. Also, if the teacher has a “no eating or drinking” rule for students, it would be a little awkward for the teacher to go against the classroom rule.
Regardless of however you decide to “Welcome Back” your first day, I hope you have a fantastic first day back after the holiday break! Always remember that you make a difference in the lives of students and that is priceless! Happy New Year!