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Paul Dixon

How to jump start your classes after a break

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Now that Christmas is past and you're getting back into your routines and thinking about the next semester, what are some ways that you approach the first day back from Christmas break?

The beginning of the year normally holds its own kind of excitement that doesn't need any prompting and the day after spring break is seasoned with a certain amount of relief because the days are warming and the end of the year is in sight, but the first days of January are still cold and dark. How do you bring excitement to your classes so that the students feel energized and ready to tackle a new semester?

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January is hard because there is also a break between sports and holidays. It's still cold, money has all been spent on Christmas, and the next athletic season is not yet come. But, there is still a whole semester of course work to complete before the next great break. I struggle through January for these reasons. I struggle re-starting because I am still recovering from the holiday season and just putting away the decorations and such. Our first week we ease into our studies by reviewing and taking lots of breaks. It's like if you are a runner, but you have taken an extended break, you will have to go slower and shorter times to re-start your exercise. 

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Yes, I struggle as well. Our first week back is usually a little slower than normal, but I think it's good to get the students warmed up a bit before diving back in.

That's some good advice about taking lots of breaks. I've tried that here and there this week and it seems to help them stay focused.

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I'd add that re-establishing expectations of students is key as well. It may not be something that directly makes them feel "excited" to be back, but they (and we as well!) need a bit of help just getting back into the academic routine of working and thinking for so many hours a day.

I've found that during the first week back from a break, student behavior is noticeably better than usual or worse than usual (sometimes you see both). In the younger grades, actually taking time to review rules and expectations may be appropriate. For older students, that's probably not necessary, but reviewing high expectations in the form of something like a pep talk, and reminding them of why they're there and what the purpose is behind what they're doing in a particular class, can help move them back into the right mindset.

(For that matter, finding ways of helping them recall why they are there and getting them to see the high purpose behind their academic vocation throughout the entire year isn't a bad idea.)

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