by Jennifer Miller
As Thanksgiving Break draws to a close I lay awake that Sunday and wonder how I will make it to Winter Break. You see, I am a first-grade teacher (13-year Kindergarten teacher before that) and December is EXHAUSTING. Can I survive? Can I keep my students in routine to keep “unwanted” behaviors at bay? Can I mix in just the right amount of fun?
Jennifer Miller teaches 1st graders at Loveland Primary
And that’s just at work. At home, I am overcome with the anxiety of being a good mom and partner to my significant other through December? Will I be able to make social outings with my friends? When will I shop for my own family? It’s all too much! And I have gone through this cycle for 22 years now.
I dig deep. We get back from Thanksgiving Break and we dig back into our learning. The first week back is too soon for Holiday stuff so whew, we all survive. But we can all feel it building. Then there is that dreaded middle week of school. Not the first week back when you are fresh and not the last week before break – the middle one. Routine, routine, routine at school. Keep them in routine. Sprinkle in the fun. Go to bed early. Go to bed early. Don’t worry about getting Christmas ready at home. Self-care. Self-care. Be an OK mom. Let your significant other take care of you. That is my mantra.
And then, it’s here. The week before winter break. I dig deep. Really deep. I can do this! Keep my eyes on the prize! Eyes on the prize!
Routine again at school as much as possible. Eat a good breakfast. Consume LOTS of coffee. Self-talk. Self-talk. Self-talk. Believe that I am enough at school for my students and at home for my family. Oh – and sprinkle in the fun at school. Holidays around the world, a Fantasy Field Trip to the North Pole writing assignment, assist 24 little ones in making a gift for their parent, and oh – keep the peace in the classroom and pick my battles. And then, Mother Nature teases us with a possible delay or snow day. But no, it’s just wet and cold enough to cause days worth of inside recess! Inside recess in December- oh come on! I’m definitely being tested. I trudge along.
And then I remember that year after year I get to spend December with an incredible age group who never let me forget what the holidays are all about.
But then something always snaps in me and my brain settles a bit and the anxiety begins to disappear. Perhaps it’s because I am getting older and my own child is 15 and the holidays look and feel a little different now. Gone are the days of sitting on Santa’s lap and getting up early on Christmas morning to see what Santa left. Gone are the days of having our own elf on a shelf at home. Christmas wish lists are full of makeup and clothes and gift cards instead of American Girl Dolls and Barbies.
But here I am at school every day with 24 children who truly do believe in the magic of Christmas and Hanukkah. 24 children who think every minute of this last week is amazing and awesome. 24 children who think their classmates and their teachers are awesome.
But here I am at school every day with 24 children who truly do believe in the magic of Christmas and Hanukkah. 24 children who think every minute of this last week is amazing and awesome. 24 children who think their classmates and their teachers are awesome. And then I remember that year after year I get to spend December with an incredible age group who never let me forget what the holidays are all about. I get to see December through the eyes of a child year after year. I begin to move slower through the week. Observing and listening as I go. I slow down at home too. And I take it all in. And to me, that makes me the luckiest person out there. Maybe even luckier than Santa.
PS – I have to say thank you to my incredible family. To Olivia, my daughter, thank you for letting me be just an OK mom during the last few weeks! Thank you for knowing that I give my all to school every day.
To my significant other, Kyle – thank you for loving and supporting “teacher me” each day, and understanding this time of year like no one else can. Thank you for feeding me and tucking me in at 9 PM. And to my mom, dad, and sister – thank you for understanding my job and that in December those little people come first. Thank you for supporting me so that I can love and support my students.
The photos below were taken in Ms. Miller’s classroom the day before the last day of school before Winter Break. The children were making holiday crafts and thank you cards for their custodian, Dave Constant. They got a surprise visit from their Recess Monitor, Mike Scherbenberg and Amy Reiss the building’ English as Second Language teacher. Donna Miller, Ms. Miller’s mom volunteered to help the children wrap the presents they were going to take home.