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How to Support Your Students and Staff During Winter Break

  • Sarah Smith
  • November 3, 2021

Winter break is on the horizon — Can you see it? Rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation are just a few weeks away, and you’re probably already filling your calendar with family activities and home improvement projects.

While winter break is a long-awaited respite from the hustle and bustle of the academic year, it’s not always restful for students (or educators, for that matter). Weeks away from school disturbs students’ schedules and brings on other challenges.

Here are just a few tips for supporting your students, staff, and self during winter break.

Supporting Students During Winter Break

Though students aren’t in the classroom during winter break, more than likely, their parents are still at work every day. As a result, many students spend a lot of time alone or caring for their younger siblings. Other students face more substantial challenges such as food or housing insecurity and lack of access to resources they would receive if they were in school.

In an article for Hey Teach!, Nancy Barile, M.A.Ed. suggested using a peer buddy system, connecting families with resources, and setting up check-ins in preparation for winter break.

  1. Peer Buddy System: Pairing your at-risk students with a peer buddy for winter break can help students feel less isolated. A quick text, phone call, or email can make all the difference for students who are struggling while they’re away from school.
  2. Connect Families With Resources: As an administrator, you can work with social workers and school resource officers to make an impact on students and their families. Check out food banks in your community or consider hosting a gift drive at your school. You can even compile a list of these resources to send home with students to share with their parents and others during the break.
  3. Set Up Check-Ins: Have your social workers and school administrators check in with at-risk students prior to winter break to make sure they have the support and resources they need during the break.
  4. Update Student Records: We also suggest auditing student contact information to make sure addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and emergency contacts are up to date before students leave for winter break. By ensuring you have all of their information updated, you’re less likely to lose track of students if they do not return at the start of the spring semester.

Planning ahead and setting up some safety nets for students before they leave for the break is the best way to ensure they have the support they need if something comes up while they’re away from school.

Supporting Your Staff During Winter Break

You support your teaching staff all throughout the year, and you’ll continue to do so as the holiday season approaches. But we all know that it gets tougher and tougher to keep up with the daily grind with winter break on the horizon. Many teachers are on the edge of burnout, but there are things you can do to help your staff stay emotionally healthy during this stressful time of year.

One of the best things you can do is continue to foster a positive, supportive environment, and the holiday season is a great time to introduce some new activities and initiatives. Better Kids offers some great ideas for building a positive environment, including:

  • Sending positive emails to your staff
  • Surprising your teachers with a holiday treat
  • Being present for morning arrivals
  • Providing extra support to teachers with challenging students
  • Offering some ideas for self-care during winter break

Though you try to foster a positive environment all throughout the school year, it can be difficult to maintain during the holiday season. The anticipation of winter break often butts heads with the need to maintain a routine. But adding a few new initiatives, especially if they’re fun or holiday-themed, will change things up and boost morale.

Supporting Yourself During Winter Break

Whether you follow the school calendar or not, there are things you can do to recharge during winter break. Without students in the building, it can be a good time to get deep work done, but don’t forget to invest in yourself!

Quality rest requires a bit of planning, so take some time a week or so before winter break to write down everything you need to get done before the spring semester starts. Then, schedule time to tackle work-related tasks and time to focus solely on your friends, family, and personal life.

If you’re a New Year’s resolution type person, consider making a professional resolution in addition to your personal ones. Review any feedback you received from your staff during the first half of the school year and use it to make your resolution.

Finally, invest in your self-care during winter break. While you may not take off as many days as your students and teaching staff, you should still take some time to do things that nourish you. Whether it’s reading a book for pleasure, taking a yoga class, or cooking some healthy meals, self-care is foundational to supporting your students and staff.