Hard Reset: Reclaiming Your Classroom by Reinforcing Expectations, Routines and Learning Goals

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December 12, 2023

Ready or not, winter break is approaching fast. The holidays provide a necessary break for students and teachers, allowing them to rest, reflect and prepare for the upcoming semester. This time away from the classroom is essential for maintaining the well-being of all involved in the education process and improving the overall education quality.
Many teachers find it necessary to have a hard reset in January, using the break to reflect on the first half of the school year, assess their teaching strategies and plan for the remainder of the academic year. It’s a valuable time for professional development and self-improvement.
These three tips will help teachers get their classes back on track after the winter break.

1. Establish Clear Expectations

During winter break, revisiting rules and expectations is crucial. Before returning, consider which practices are working and be willing to modify practices if they do not achieve the desired classroom behavior or outcomes. Then, reinforce these rules upon returning to class. Revisiting expectations refreshes students’ memories about classroom norms, promoting a smooth transition back to learning. This reminds students of what’s expected of them and reinforces a structured, respectful atmosphere in the classroom.
Regular reminders help prevent misunderstandings, disputes and disruptive behavior, allowing teachers to maintain control and focus on teaching. This consistency contributes to a more productive learning experience and ensures that all students clearly understand how to navigate the classroom environment. It also helps build a sense of responsibility and respect, creating a more positive classroom environment.

2. Reinforce Routines

Reinforcing routines after a long break is vital. It helps students readjust to the learning environment and regain a sense of structure. Routines provide predictability, making students feel secure and reducing anxiety. This predictability also makes it easier for teachers to manage the classroom effectively.
Routines can streamline the teaching process and help students focus, which is especially valuable after a break when attention spans may be scattered. Reestablishing routines after a break ensures a smoother transition back to learning, fostering a comfortable and organized atmosphere that benefits students and teachers.

3. Set New Learning Goals

Setting new learning targets mid-year is essential for several reasons. It allows teachers to assess and address students’ progress, adapting instruction to their changing needs. This helps keep students engaged and motivated, as it provides them with fresh challenges. Mid-year adjustments also help ensure that the curriculum remains relevant and practical.
Moreover, setting new targets can improve the learning experience, making it more dynamic and responsive to student development. Mid-year learning targets help keep education on track, fostering a more successful and tailored learning environment.

New Beginnings

The transition from one year to the next often brings a sense of renewal and the opportunity to set goals. Teachers and students may use this time to reflect on personal and academic achievements and plan for the remainder of the school year.
Trying new classroom management techniques is helpful for teachers because it allows them to adapt and improve their methods. It can lead to more effective ways of maintaining discipline and creating a positive learning environment. Experimenting with different approaches helps teachers discover what works best for their students and their specific classroom dynamics. It also keeps the teaching experience fresh and engaging, benefiting students and teachers.
By being open to new techniques, teachers can continue to refine their skills and stay responsive to the ever-changing educational needs.


2023-24 Michigan Teacher of the Year Candice Jackson is a third-grade teacher and instructional coach at Mann Learning Community in Detroit Public Schools Community District. She's been in the Detroit district since 2002 and at Mann since 2017.