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12 days of bite-size professional learning for Dec.

Professional learning needn't stop before Christmas. December is the perfect month to offer up bite-size PL for teachers.

7 min read

EducationVoice of the Educator

Handmade wooden advent calendar looks like small red and white houses, village or small city for article on bite-size professional learning

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Does the fray of December in school remind you a little of this?

Donna Spangler measuring coaching impact

On the 12th day of Christmas, my school gave to me: 12 deadlines looming, 11 last-minute changes, 10 parents emailing, nine students texting, eight lessons to re-plan, seven meetings pending, six kids a-fidgeting, five noisy halls, four stacks of papers, three ringing phones, two computers crashing and a partridge with no time for me.

Although December is often a hectic time of the year, it is a perfect time for coaches to consider offering bite-size professional learning to cater to the unique demands and opportunities that the month presents for teachers. By addressing seasonal and pedagogical needs through bite-size PL, instructional coaches can enhance teacher effectiveness, well-being and job satisfaction during this busy time by offering flexible, targeted learning to accommodate an educator’s busy schedules.

6 ways bite-size PL boosts teacher morale and keeps learning going

  1. Reduced stress. Bite-size professional learning minimizes the stress and anxiety associated with longer, more time-consuming professional development sessions. Teachers are more likely to engage in short, manageable activities that don’t overwhelm them, helping to reduce stress during busy periods.
  2. Quick wins. Bite-size PL can give teachers quick, achievable goals and immediate successes. When they complete short modules or activities, they can feel a sense of accomplishment, which boosts morale and motivation.
  3. Flexibility. Bite-size PL allows teachers to access learning at their convenience. During busy times, such as the end of the semester or the holiday season, teachers can fit these brief sessions into their schedules, maintaining a sense of control and flexibility.
  4. Peer interaction. Effective bite-size PD can incorporate collaboration and peer interaction elements. Teachers can discuss their lessons in brief, focused sessions with their colleagues, creating a sense of community and support.
  5. Leverage technology. Digital bite-size PD can utilize technology and gamification elements, making learning more engaging and enjoyable for teachers and positively affecting morale.
  6. Professional growth. When teachers engage in ongoing, small learning activities, they commit to their professional growth. This sense of personal and collective development can enhance morale and job satisfaction.

12 ideas for bite-size professional learning

Here are 12 activities to provide meaningful professional learning, boost morale and cultivate collaboration in the 12 days leading up to Christmas. Select one idea, adapt several ideas or use these ideas to jump-start your own December activities to meet your school’s needs.

On the first day of learning, my coach gave to me, 

A chance to embrace tech with guidance so free. 

  • EdTech Appvent Calendar
    • Activity. Create a digital calendar with 12 daily recommendations of educational technology apps or tools teachers can use in the classroom. 
    • Why. Enhances digital literacy and brings excitement to integrating technology in teaching.

On the second day of learning, my coach gave to me, 

Two minutes of wellness, a tranquil, vital decree.

  • Winter Wellness Workshop
    • Activity. Organize short, interactive activities on winter wellness, focusing on nutrition, exercise, stress management and mindfulness tips.
    • Why. Providing resources and activities to help teachers prioritize self-care and equips them with resources to manage their well–being.

On the third day of learning, my coach gave to me, 

Three professional books to broaden my expertise.

  • Book Swap and Reading Break
    • Activity. Organize a book swap where teachers can exchange their favorite professional development books. 
    • Why. Encourage a reading break where staff can relax with a good book during a designated time or take home over the holiday to read to encourage a love for reading.

On the fourth day of learning, my coach gave to me, 

Four digital badges to recognize my mastery.

  • Digital Badge Challenge
    • Activity. Set up a digital badge challenge where staff earn badges for completing short online learning modules or tasks related to teaching and technology. 
    • Why. Gamification motivates professional development and fosters friendly competition.

On the fifth day of learning, my coach gave to me, 

Five fun brain breaks for energy and glee.

  • Holiday-themed Brain Breaks
    • Activity. Share a series of quick, fun brain break activities that teachers can use with their students to keep them engaged and energized during the holiday season. 
    • Why. Helps maintain student focus and is a practical, hands-on way to support teaching strategies.

On the sixth day of learning, my coach gave to me, 

Six random acts of kindness to foster unity.

  • Random Acts of Kindness Challenge
    • Activity. Challenge staff and students to perform a daily random act of kindness within the school community or their classrooms. 
    • Why. Fosters a culture of kindness and empathy, contributing to a positive school environment.

On the seventh day of learning, my coach gave to me, 

Seven quick games to engage and see.

  • Minute-to-Win-It Holiday Games
    • Activity. Organize short, festive minute-to-win-it games during staff meetings or for teachers’ classrooms, promoting laughter and camaraderie. 
    • Why. Boosts morale, creates a lighthearted atmosphere and fosters teamwork.

On the eighth day of learning, my coach gave to me, 

Eight collaborative forums where ideas run free.

  • Seasonal Strategies Share
    • Activity. Encourage teachers to create brief video clips (one to two minutes)  or written explanations sharing their favorite classroom management or engagement strategies for the holiday season. 
    • Why. Promotes the exchange of practical teaching ideas and collaborative problem-solving for a challenging time of the year.

On the ninth day of learning, my coach gave to me, 

Nine classroom apps for delectability.

  • Appetite for Learning
    • Activity. Arrange a potluck or snack-sharing event where teachers can bring dishes representing their cultural backgrounds. 
    • Why. This fosters camaraderie and promotes global awareness by creating a shared experience that helps teachers connect personally.

On the 10th day of learning, my coach gave to me, 

10 innovative strategies for instructional proficiency.

  • Interactive Advent Calendar 
    • Activity. Create a digital or physical advent calendar that reveals a new teaching tip, resource or inspiration each day. 
    • Why. Provides daily motivation, ideas and a sense of anticipation.

On the 11th day of learning, my coach gave to me, 

11 icebreakers to foster community.

  • Quick and Engaging Icebreakers
    • Activity. Share a collection of short and practical icebreaker activities that teachers can use to create a positive and connected classroom atmosphere.
    • Why. Icebreakers help build strong teacher-student relationships and foster community in the classroom. These activities help ease tensions, encourage communication and set a positive tone for learning.

On the 12th day of learning, my coach gave to me, 

12 moments of appreciation to be all that we can be.

  • 12 Days of Gratitude Challenge
    • Activity. Encourage staff to express gratitude and appreciation for their colleagues daily. Create a collaborative online platform or bulletin board where staff can post their messages. 
    • Why. Fosters a positive and supportive school culture, boosting morale and team spirit.

So thank you, instructional coaches, for your guidance and cheer, 

This holiday season, we’re learning and growing, it’s clear.

With bite-size PL, our spirits take flight, 

Merry Christmas to ALL, and to ALL, a good night!


Donna Spangler, a 35-year education veteran, is the former K-12 instructional coach department chair for Derry Township School District in Hershey, Penn., from which she recently retired. Spanger served as past co-president of the board for the Learning Forward PA, ran a school induction and mentoring program for six years and has co-authored a book. She also is an instructional designer for Edjacent and a virtual coach for Sibme.

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own. 



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