3 Teaching Mantras for Winter Break

Winter break is nearly upon us. We’re finishing up our gradebooks, meetings, and putting away our lessons for a time. So, you know what that means? It’s time to plan on how we’re going to come back in January stronger and better prepared than ever!

(Wait. Please remember to enjoy yourself and look into some self care first. You’ve earned it.)

So if you’re ready to jump back into things for the next quarter, trimester, or semester, then I’ve got a couple of teaching mantras to share that just might help you get organized and keep things in perspective.

1.) The Text Determines What I Do With It

This first mantra helps check our most daring impulses and keep our work in perspective. Starting with skill-first planning may be fine, but I recommend looking first at what a text has to offer rather than trying to force an approach or area of study onto it.

For example, how much character development does Beowulfor Achilles undergo? While you could do a character study on them, I would argue that they don’t undergo much development. Their characters at the beginning are quite similar to theirs at the end, so trying to force a character analysis lesson onto those texts would be a dead-end. Plus, why ignore all of those beautiful kennings and mythological allusions when they’re sitting right there waiting to be studied?

This winter break, review some of your old favorites and see what jumps out at you.

2.) My Colleagues Are Great Resources

This second mantra helps remind us of what we already know but often forget to use. Why don’t we use our colleagues as resources more frequently? Well, several reasons come to mind: lack of time, differences in classroom demographics, and a (silly) perception that we have to succeed all on our own.

For example, if you’re looking at Huckleberry Finn for the thousandth time, maybe talk to someone who has either never taught it, who is in the same situation as you, or who has a completely different perspective on it. Trade resources, grab coffee and talk, or just plan together. Whether it’s a new resource, a fresh insight, or just a healthy chat, you’ll get something useful out of this.

This winter break, remind yourself that you are part of a network of amazing people. Use this network for support; after all, we’re here for each other.

3.) Perfect Materials Never Make It to the Classroom

This third and final mantra helps save us time during the creation and planning of materials. Let’s not forget what Burns said about “The best-laid schemes o’ mice and men,” right?

Perfect materials do not exist, because no material can perfectly cater to your classroom on that day for that lesson. I’ve seen entire plans written hastily on napkins that led to exemplary lessons, and I’ve seen exquisitely detailed plans fall flat.

This winter break, remember that your materials and plans serve your students’ needs. The best materials do not prescribe learning; they facilitate it.