The end of 2019 is upon us! Along with the celebratory activities of this time of year come increased stressors and pressure—from finals and end of semester projects to social events and family gatherings. And, this year, all of this pre-holiday activity is taking place in the midst of intense national and international politics and climate change reports. In such times, students and teachers alike can experience a complex set of emotions and states (agitation, joy, sadness, inability to focus) related to both the stress and excitement of this time of year.
Below are some tips to specifically address the range of emotions and experiences that emerge at this time of year. These activities can be used both before and after the holidays, and they can also be used with family and friends.
- Start class with 1-2 minutes of silence. Bring a chime or bell into class and either 1) ring it to mark the beginning and end of the period of the 1-2 minute period of silence, or 2) ring the bell and ask students to simply hold their attention on the sound of the bell and to raise their hand when they can no longer hear it. Trying this with multiple chimes can be interesting and useful.
- Introduce a 5-count breath. This simple breath practice can be done with the whole class. Ask students to inhale for one count and then exhale for one count. Then inhale for two counts, exhale for two counts. Continue up to five. This teaches students to breathe more deeply and increases relaxation and focus. Remind students not to push themselves to a place of discomfort.
- Share Gratitude. Start class with a community circle in which students share one sentence or phrase about something they are grateful for in their lives and why they are grateful for this person, place, thing, etc. Alternatively, ask students to write down a “gratitude” or share a “gratitude” with a partner.
- Check-in regarding Winter Holidays. Invite students to share one thing they are looking forward to or appreciate about the winter holidays and one thing that is often challenging for them about the holiday break. You can use this after the new year as a return-to-school check in.
- Consider Meaningful Gifting. As a class, consider raising money for a non-profit or cause that is meaningful to your students. Introducing the idea of meaningful gifting can be a useful antidote to the commercialization of these holiday times.
- Review the Semester. Give students an opportunity to review the ending semester and assess their own learning and growth—and to share about their learning journey with you or the class.
- Normalize Emotions. Especially with adolescents, normalizing and acknowledging the full range of emotions that can arise during the holidays can be very helpful and relieving. Statistically, the holidays are a time when depression rates increase. Often there can be pressure to feel “happy” when this is not necessarily the case for students. Consider sharing an appropriate personal story or letting students know that sometimes people feel celebratory and joyful this time of year and other times people feel sad or stressed. See page 162 of The Five Dimensions of Engaged Learning for “Pop Up” – an activity that can be used to explore feelings about and experiences of the holidays.
We hope you have a wonderful and nourishing holiday season and look forward to being in touch in 2020!
The PassageWorks Team