The scenario looks the same in every classroom in America, regardless of whether it is public school, private school, or home school. The teachers are ready to start fresh. The lesson plans are complete. Projects are prepared. The classroom is ready. They arrive with extra time to get everything for the day set up and ready. Then the students arrive. The newly refreshed teachers greet their students as they file in, ready to change the students’ world for the better. But as the day progresses, their excitement and motivation to change the world one student at a time begins to wane. The kids are restless, inattentive, and uncooperative. They are not nearly as ready to have their world changed. Most of them would rather still be at home or with their friends anywhere but at school.
So what happened? Even though they got their much needed break over the holidays, why are they not ready to just jump right back into their routine? The key word is routine. It isn’t necessarily that they didn’t want to be there or start right back in on their new projects/learning. A lot of kids really like school and the daily grind. The problem is that they are not used to the routine and the movement that it entails throughout the day. It is the same phenomenon as when we go on family vacations and come home feeling like we need another vacation to get some rest before we get back into the grind at our jobs. The kids have been enjoying lots of time with family, friends, and neighbors. They have had lots of free time and late bedtimes. Now it is time to get back into regular life and they are just as unprepared as we are after going on an exciting family trip across the country.
There are some great ways to break them (and us teachers) back into the daily routine without driving everyone crazy. The first is to keep expectations of great amounts of work getting done in proper perspective. We can make so much more progress with our students if we spend some time upon their return listening to the things that happened to them over vacation that were highlights for them (or even disappointments they experienced). They will be much more in tune to us if they know that we are listening to them and understanding where their minds are.