As Winter Break nears, and our sanity slowly disappears (I told “Paragraphs 1 and 2” to line up this week. That’s almost the same thing as “Tables 1 and 2”), I wanted to be sure to wish everyone a very happy holiday this season.
To celebrate in our class, I thought for a bit. I’m far from rich. My fiance and I are counting every penny these days as our March wedding approaches. But I wanted to get something for my babies. My babies who ask for very little and mostly work very hard. My babies who, more often than not, come from homes with parents who cannot afford to buy them gifts. My babies, some of whom start conversations saying to me, “You know how when you go to a new foster family, you have to go to the doctor? That’s why I’m late today. I’m okay!” My babies who excitedly say, “The staff at my shelter let me put the star on the top of the tree.” My babies who say, “I couldn’t come to school yesterday because my mom was really sick from chemotherapy.” My babies who come to school with dirty clothes most days, and on clean days, tell me “I was up late last night because my mom got paid. So we went to the laundromat.” My babies who in their personal narratives, write things like, “I visit my mom at the cemetery on her birthday. I miss her.” My babies who have dealt with more in their eight years, than I have in my 25.
I thought about what they needed. I can’t bring all 34 home and feed them and love on them and give them the ponies and unicorns they so deserve. So my next step was books. I was originally going to do the dollar book deal, but when I thought about my wide range of readers (everything from friends reading at a K level to a 5th), I knew I had to do something different. I picked a book for each kid based on what I know about their interests and what I normally see them pick from my library.
Then I wrapped it all up.
Finally, they got to open their “presents”. I knew they would be excited because something was wrapped and had their names on it. What I did not anticipate, was the utter joy and excitement. I did not anticipate fists being pumped into the air as a child who had just whispered to himself, “I hope it’s a Lego book” ripped open the paper and found just that inside. (Seriously child, I know you. I know your life revolves around Legos. Of course I got you a Lego book.) I did not anticipate squeals of joy. I did not anticipate being bombarded with children begging, “Can we read our books NOW?” And when I of course, gave in and told them to find a comfortable spot in the room to read, I did not anticipate that they would scramble and cuddle up to each other. And share. They shared what they had. They read their notes from me to each other. They said sweetly, “You got a different note from me. Ms. T, you wrote us all different notes?” I did not anticipate that kids who got books from the same series would sit together and take turns reading from their books and discussing their characters. (And then in fact, I watched as they discovered maps and overheard things like“My fairy is special because ______. What does your fairy do?” which meant they were naturally comparing and contrasting, and then things like “My character lives on this island. Where does your character live?” And then they searched on the illustrated map and used text features without knowing, and my Teacher Heart grew 10 sizes.)
More than anything, I did not realize how much joy these kids have brought me until these moments. I don’t know if it’s the grade, or this particular crew. Some of them drive me nuts quite a bit. Saying otherwise would be a lie. All kids are often very gifted at driving adults nuts here and there. But there is not one single child who has not touched my heart in some way. And this holiday season, I hope they do a lot of things. I hope they read. I hope they play. But most of all, I hope they feel safe and loved and appreciated for the amazing little humans that they are.
And this season, I hope all of you teachers feel appreciated for the heroic work you do every single day.
Happy Holidays, teachers. ❤