In NYC teachers and students are given a winter break, mid-winter break and a spring break. The instructional days surrounding these breaks are especially important for a number of reasons. They may well be the most productive instructional days of the year and for that reason they should be well-prepared for. This week has been February break, which can allow for two important things to occur: resting for the coming period in which there are no long weekends and preparing curriculum, procedures and your classroom for a productive spring.
The first thing you should do over break is use it for what it is intended to be: a break. Instead of stressing out the entire break and only getting a few of the big things on my plate accomplished, the past five days I've been cooking, taking advantage of Restaurant Week (which was extended for a few weeks to help boost sales throughout the city), spending time with friends in the city and procrastinating on anything work-related. This has allowed me to catch up on sleep, get in some exercise and improve my health before I continue to douse myself with coffee to make it through my work days operating once more on around five and a half hour sleep regimen.
The reason it's important to prepare for the coming weeks is that they are nearly uninterrupted weeks of instructional days. We have five weeks between now and spring break. From spring break to the end of the year there are eight weeks that are interrupted only for state exams and Memorial Day, which were less disruptive last year than all of the random days off in the fall. Also, at this point in the year you and your students probably know one another fairly well. It's more than half-way through the year now. They most likely know what to generally expect of you and you know what you can generally do with them. Drastic changes on either side are, while perhaps desirable, not as likely. Take what you have built, however large, and work with it. Move forward as best you can, still working to improve, but having a more realistic goal as to what you and your students can accomplish by the end of June. The solid weeks of instruction will work to your advantage, as they will in themselves give more of a routine than November, December, January, and February to this point have offered. If you're still struggling with routines, this is an opportunity to take another look at them.
Tonight I'm jumping back on the horse to get a few things done before my parents get into town tomorrow night. After they've headed back to the Midwest I'll have about a day left of break to get my act together for Monday- the beginning of this productive spring period. Luckily I already have the next couple weeks mapped out. If you've been working like mad this week to get things planned for your classes after break, take the next couple of days to really separate yourself from that work and relax. Come back to it on the weekend and make sure you're prepared for five long weeks that are full of potential.
Today's Wine: Cudgee Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 2008. Something I've found a bit challenging is getting reviews on newer vintages. The link above is the 2006 vintage of this wine. To me it was another Australian wine that was incredibly fruity and not what I think of as a Cabernet. It was fine though with the white wine/duck cream sauce I served it with, which might have been over-powered by a drier or fuller-bodied red.