This being the first week of school, every teacher—seasoned or novice—is experiencing teething issues in getting students to hang up their holiday hangovers. After all the partying and feasting, we would be myopic to expect anything less, yet the teaching must still continue as usual. This being the case, how can teachers help learners with the smooth transition into the reality of the classroom?
One of the ways is through integration of students’ wonderful experiences into classroom activities. A math teacher, for example, can gather lists of Christmas expenses to teach fractions, percentages or tax deductions. This can work for the economics teacher as well. Teachers of English have a variety to pick from: holiday reflections, journal entries, digital stories using the many photos taken during the season, Christmas passages and games, among other things. Geography and history teachers can also explore the holiday travels and historical aspects of the season to enrich students’ involvement in the classroom. The point here is that you can choose to drag your feet through your first weeks of class or incorporate activities to make class worth looking forward to.
Another approach is to try a little bit of flexibility. A stringently scripted carrot and stick policy may not work efficiently, especially now that the students feel their freedom to walk in and out anytime, to eat at their will, to sleep until kingdom come has been taken away. While you may want to rigorously check who did or did not do your homework, you must not keep a blind eye to the festive nature of the season- you set the students up to fail when you asked them to carry their school work along to party halls thinking they could squeeze time between the dances to do it. You may want to hold back your strict classroom rules and allow some flexibility, especially on trivial matters that can be overlooked. This does not mean complacency, it means putting your best foot forward in building rapport, especially when your course is decidedly unpopular among students—you can cut them some slack. Do not bend the rules, but do not make your entire first week about rules and regulations either.
Lastly, make use of surprise in your classrooms to break the monotony of routine. Vary your hooks and warm-ups, making them just as inspirational as they are enjoyable. If you are used to beginning your class a certain way, think about tweaking your lesson in an interesting yet time sensitive way to get learners excited as well as eager to lean. While some people argue that routine and procedure is the best way to learn as students get used to acting a given way, we must recognise how boring and predictable this may make you as a teacher- something that later translates to your subject or course.
When all is said and done, it is undeniable that your students are still in the holiday mood and may be for a long time. The best way to deal with this is to make the most of their experiences in your lessons, vary your activities and introduce the element of surprise in your class.