The Bright Side of the Dark Days

Eric Charlesworth

by Eric Charlesworth

For Middle Level

Winter's in high gear in the Northeast. The cold, dark days do have downsides, most notably a slew of indoor recesses. However, there is a bright side from the perspective of a teacher. The students are settled into routines, comfortable with one another. You know their needs, and they are not yet staring out the window counting down to summer. All of that adds up to the potential for productive teaching and learning.

That said, there is also the possibility that the daily grind and potential day-to-day blandness can lead to inertia. So I thought I'd share a few ideas to add flavor to the winter months.

  1. Redecorate. Clean, redesign, or reinvent your classroom set-up. Involve the students, many of whom have good suggestions and a love of interior decorating.
  2. Go on field trips. We usually go to the science museum in January. Sure, there is almost always a weather threat, but that adds to the excitement.
  3. Find new ways to have fun. Now that students are more comfortable, you can try riskier games and cooperative challenges. Often, my class does the Random Olympics, a series of wacky challenges, many based on the TV show Minute to Win It.
  4. Have students lead CPR more often. By this time of year, students are almost always in charge of our morning routine, and they have become more competent and creative.

Another advantage of this time of year is that you have forged substantial relationships with families and can collaboratively steer students toward reaching their goals.

Don't get me wrong. I love the beginning of the year, with all the fresh faces and new stories. And I get jazzed at the end of the year, when the sun sets late and beach trips are within sight. But these days when I go to school in in the dark and come home in the dark can be some of the most critical days for learning. And with the right approach, they can be fun as well.

Eric Charlesworth is a sixth-grade mathematics teacher and advisor at Paul Cuffee Charter School in Providence, Rhode Island. Recently, he obtained principal certification. He has practiced the Developmental Designs approach in middle school for eight years.

Posted February 2014

Read more posts from the Developmental Designs blog.