There’s a virulent scourge running rampant in schools. Symptoms include: inability to focus, impaired short-term memory, restlessness, failure to follow directions, and occasional moodiness (this symptom way be more pronounced in teenagers). The diagnoses: December Syndrome.
It’s not in your head, the kids really are afflicted with this syndrome, and it really does make teaching 10 times harder. There’s no known cure for the condition, but symptoms are known to dissipate some time during the first week of January, as students return from holiday break.
So how can you be most effective in teaching during this epidemic? The best thing you can do is to think about an influential teacher from your past. Consider why you remember them. Chances are it had little to do with content. It likely had more to do with making you feel like you mattered, like your opinions and questions were worthy, like you could make a difference in this world.
Although you want to make students feel this way all the time, December is a particularly good season to make that your focus. It may not relieve all the symptoms of December Syndrome, but it does mitigate them by not compounding the affliction with additional content that is not likely to be fully understood, much less retained.
Finding Your Holiday Sparkle
Yes, this means you might have a backlog to face come January, but trust your gut here. If it feels like you’re cramming information in, give yourself permission to stop. Just stop. Instead, dive into the affliction yourself, and use it to help your students feel valued and loved. Ask them:
- What do you want for the holidays? Why? What does that mean to you?
- What is your favorite gift you’re giving this season? Why?
- How will you make someone feel special this holiday?
- What do the holidays mean to you?
Don’t allow yourself to become a Grinch by fighting the holiday spirit. Rather, see if you can channel your student’s eagerness into something worthwhile. Like many perceived troubles, December Syndrome is really just an opportunity in disguise. Take this chance to connect with your students while you can. After all, it only comes around once a year!
What about you? What are your remedies for December Syndrome?
*Image Courtesy of Illumination.