December Teaching: It’s The Most Stressful Time Of The Year

Teaching in December- It's The Most Stressful Time Of The Year cover image

Welcome to the holiday season! It’s that magical time of year when Christmas carols blare out of everyone’s radios, people are filled with joy and cheer, and teachers are at their wits’ end. Seriously, the last few weeks before Christmas break are excruciating for teachers. Here are just a few reasons why December teaching is exhausting:

1. Kids are just a little bit excited

You can’t blame children for getting excited around the holidays. It’s the Super Bowl of holidays with the presents and the food and whatnot. Of course, that makes it nearly impossible to get them to focus on any task longer than 5 seconds. Just try explaining the difference between an adverb and an adjective to a kid who’s dreaming about all the video games he’ll unwrap in a couple of weeks. You’d have better luck teaching your cat to drive.

2. Schedules go up in flames

Teachers are creatures of habit. We enjoy the routine of the school day and we have trained our minds and bladders to act accordingly. Then come the holidays and our school days become overwhelmed with contests and dress down days and assemblies and every distraction known to mankind. It’s beginning to look a lot like chaos, and pretty soon your lesson plans will be roasting over an open fire.

3. The Zoom activities don’t stop!

The holidays always seem to be the perfect storm of extra-curricular activities. Chorus concerts, band concerts, school dances, and other assorted holiday events are a few of a teacher’s most time-consuming things. As if teaching a full day wasn’t stressful enough, now you get to stay late and spend even more time with your darling cherubs – over Zoom. I can guarantee there won’t be many silent nights in your future.

4. The (virtual) pageants

At one time or another, every teacher has been involved with at least one holiday Pageant. For some of us, it’s a yearly endeavor that becomes the all-consuming time monster of the entire month. Some schools require classes to practice and perform a song or two, which means you can now add “Choir Conductor” to your never-ending string of job titles. Some schools put on actual plays, which requires weeks of planning and rehearsals. Either way, your day will be filled with visions of sugar plum fairies dancing through your classroom as you stress about pulling it all off virtually for everyone to see from a safe distance!

5. Mountains of paperwork

As if all the extra holiday craziness isn’t enough, winter break also tends to coincide with the end of the semester. That means that on top of your normal slate of papers to grade, you have report cards to finalize, comments to write and all of your data to update. And all of that has to be done before you run screaming for that mid-year break.

6. Snow

If you are one of the thousands of teachers who hail from up north, you get an extra-special added bonus to your winter wonderland of insanity: snow. For the uninitiated allow me to explain. Aside from the occasional blizzard that cancels school, snow is more of a burden than anything. First of all, when snow starts to fall it captures the imagination and attention span of every child. You might as well be teaching to an oil painting. Then when they go outside and play in it, there are inevitably a slew of injuries from slips and falls to snowball fights gone awry. Finally, they trudge back into your classroom, dragging slush and dirt with them, leaving your floor a slippery danger zone. Oh, and by the way, every snow day off only adds an extra day at the end of the year!

But hey, at least you can look forward to another mountain of coffee mugs that you’ll get as Christmas presents.


Teaching in December

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David Rode

Dave is a middle school math teacher. He's also a musician, a community theater, dad to two amazing children, and he doesn't get a lot of sleep.

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