Holiday Break Sucks

Christmas Break.
Holiday Break.
Winter Break.

In the immortal words of New Kids on the Block, “call it what you want”. Bottom line is many of us look forward to the time of year when we get a bit of time off to relax, recharge and spend time with loved ones. However, it is at this time of year I am always reminded how much these break suck for many of our students. I can name a handful of my students who are dreading the upcoming time away from classes and their behavior is a clear indicator of this fact. Is this because my class is that awesome? Not a chance! Do these kids love homework and extra credit projects? Not even close! These particular students simply have nothing at home worth looking forward to. 
  • Many will be heading to a break filled with fighting, yelling, and domestic unrest.
  • Some will attempt to hide in a home where divorce has wrecked their “normal” lives.
  • Increasing numbers of students will experience less than bountiful loot left from Santa under the tree.
  • Some students will spend their breaks parenting siblings while their parents work.
  • Others will be working themselves to help support their families.
  • A few of your students might not get to read a book because they have none of their own.
  • Many will head to homes not able to pay the heating or electric bills.
  • Some may not even have homes to go home to.

We often take for granted these breaks and cannot possibly imagine why anyone would fear them. For those about to head on break, remember when those students start acting out there might be a reason behind it. They might be afraid of leaving the safe, calm, and loving environment that is school. Many students view schools as their safe haven and impending breaks from school are scary and potentially anxious times in their lives.


Deb Day said...

I feel a bit guilty after reading this. My school gets out this Thursday and I am counting the minutes. But I know you are right. I have several that I know feel like this and I know why. Thanks for the reminder. At least I have a couple of days to check in with them....

Thanks for sharing

Chris Megaffin said...

Thank you for posting this. It helped me to re-think my perspective on the winter break...How do you prepare your students whose winter break will not be a positive experience?

Dave Meister said...

So true Josh! Children who live in less the ideal circumstances often have miserable experiences during their extended times away from school. Our culture and the media create this picture of the holidays as one of warm feelings and wonderful family get-togethers. The sense of loneliness and despair is compounded by the fact that some of our students experiences can never live up to those that are portrayed in the popular media. Maybe we should offer some open gym and computer lab times where students could come and get away from their particular situations and experience some fun in a non threatening environment???

Anonymous said...

I felt the same way when I was saying goodbye to my students before our holidays started this past Friday. It was difficult saying, "Have a nice holiday," when I knew it was going to be anything but for many of them. School is the only "safe", secure, please for many of them, where they can truly be kids. It is the only place where they can be guaranteed 2 meals each day (for some). It is the only place where they can be kids. It is the only place they can count on not to be yelled at or ridiculed. Yah, I think of this often.

Thank you for your post. I hope everyone reads it and really takes heart and realizes just how important we are to many of our students.


Sascha said...

once more time to agree. many of my students told me they 'hate' the holidays. I think over here in Thailand it might be even a little different, however the similarity (save haven) is given. Most students have to do hard work as soon as they come home and don't live in air conditioned or fan equipped rooms. so they really love simply being here (this develops quite an intense relationship between teacher and students since they are almost all the time around).

Before drifting to much apart, I totally understand students who are not happy about holidays since there are many dangers and tasks waiting outside the school yard.

K Lirenman said...

A very strong reminder for those of us that are lucky enough to have never had to experience anything like this but to be compassionate enough to try to understand. It makes me value the time I have with the little people in my classroom that much more because hopefully something I say or do for them will help make a difference in their lives.

Ann and Celina said...

Josh, I completely agree with your post. My teaching partner and I were very mindful that last week had the potential to be a rough one. Add the chaos that is the last week of school before a vacation and it could have been a disaster. These kinds of thoughts increase my patience and help me in keeping my perspective. Thank you!

Teach Science Right said...

I know what you mean! I teach in Korea and many of my students will spend their entire winter break at private tutoring institutions every day - the ironic part is that many of them are my A students whose parents place waaay too much academic pressure on them. I feel for these students!

Great blog, if you get a chance check mine out at

Ms. Hannah said...

Acknowledging that this can be the reality, does not mean however, that I look forward to and enjoy these breaks any less. There are only so many things we as teachers can do, and most of us often go above and beyond what we are asked to do and definitely paid to do. It's a sad thing, but the politicians are the ones who should feel sorry, it is the policies of governments that set minimum wages, do not provide adequate social services, etc. that wind many families up in the negative situations in the article. Additionally, adults, including teachers are often placed in situations where they are spending holidays with family members who are dealing with divorce, alcoholism, domestic issues, etc. just like the kids mentioned in the blog post. Furthermore I know other teachers who use this time to work extra hours at their own second jobs to supplement salaries that are getting cut around the country... In the end, I don't disagree with the blog post, but it may not consider all facets of the situation.

Unknown said...

Thanks for helping me think differently about the holidays and for realising how much I have to be grateful for.

Josh said...

Ms. Hannah,

Thanks for your comment...I didn't mean that anyone should enjoy their break any less. I know for sure I will enjoy my time with family and friends. I was simply writing this as food for thought for many of us.

Unknown said...

Thank you for posting this. I wrote something similar to reflect on some of our students, and how many wil keep the faith even "When Santa Isn't Real." Read and share if you'd like. Happy Holidays.

Mrs. Gosla said...

Thank you for this post...I wish more people other than educators would read this.

Anna Kapnoullas said...

Hi Josh,

I'm a student-teacher at the moment, but I have witnessed students becoming more disruptive than usual in the lead-up to the holidays.

I surmised that this worsening of behaviour could be due to the end of the year and some kids not being able to 'make the full distance' till the end of term. Another thought was that it could be due to the impending change as some children, especially special needs ones, struggle to cope with change (like many adults).

Reflecting on your post and the demographics, I had overlooked this explanation which is very plausible for some of the students in question.