#74 – How to Welcome Your Students Back From the Holidays

Unpacking Education January 12, 2022 23 min

Every student needs a community of support to learn and thrive. In this podcast episode, we are joined by special guest, Cherie Spencer, a Social and Emotional Learning Coordinator from Galveston, Texas. Cherie has been a previous guest on Tech Talk For Teachers, sharing her expertise as we integrate social and emotional learning skill development with our students, while also using these skills ourselves to reflect on our own choices and responses.

Join the team to welcome Cherie to the conversation, persevering despite a storm brewing in Galveston, computer issues, and headphones on the fritz. Cherie helps us explore how we might engage students as they come back from the holidays so that we appropriately acknowledge the diversity of their experiences. This spectrum can be challenging to navigate, as some students have joyful memories to share of their time with family, while other students may be more excited to be back in the classroom because the holidays were challenging. Join us as we share “look-for” considerations to determine if your students may have experienced trauma during the holidays, as well as strategies for developing the empathetic listening skills of all students in your classroom.

Paul Beckermann
PreK–12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
STEM Facilitator and Digital Learning Specialist
Dr. Winston Benjamin
Social Studies and English Language Arts Facilitator

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Maya Angelou, author


The following resources are available on AVID Open Access to explore this topic in more depth:

Help Students Develop Empathetic Listening Skills as They Return From Winter Break

Returning to school after the winter break elicits a range of emotions in your students. To begin to rebuild your classroom community after extended time apart, start by gathering data from students individually:

  • Greet students at the door or at the bus stop as they return to school after the holidays.
  • Do a form of polite eavesdropping to support students later. Listen to the stories that students are telling each other after the holidays—on the playground, in the hallways, or in the cafeteria.
  • Develop a journaling activity using a prompt, such as, “I wish my teacher knew this about my winter holiday.”
  • If in doubt, reach out. If you suspect that a student is having difficulties, reach out to them directly to determine how you might best support them.

Use the data that you collect from students’ stories to gauge how you ask students to share their experiences as a class. Establish context for the class before they share back in a group setting. Use the storytelling time as an opportunity to nurture empathy. Guide students through a protocol of empathetic listening that lets them share their joyful experiences while also being humble, acknowledging that there may be students in the class who have had challenging experiences. Use this time as an opportunity to rebuild students’ collaboration skills after the break. Provide sentence stems to guide students through the empathetic listening process.