Holiday Gifts

I was listening to the John Tesh Radio Show as I drove to Ceramics Class last night. A segment entitled “What Are Kids Asking Santa for This Year?” came on as I was driving. Tesh reported that more and more kids are asking Santa for the necessities (and even for their parents’ jobs back) this year. He said, “[K]ids tell Santa things they normally wouldn’t discuss with other people and they usually ask Santa to fix things. They know he’s someone who can grant wishes.”

I don’t grant wishes (wish I could!) and I’m not Santa (shocker!). However, my students have allowed me into their lives, and into their writer’s notebooks, and therefore have allowed me to read some personal entries. While some of their daily entries reflect the typical things kids ask for at this time of year, many of their entries reflect the times. There are entries by kids who are aching for more money since the price of gasoline still feels high. There are entries by kids who wish there was more money for better food. There are entries by kids who want more money so that there can be heat at home. My kids entrust me with things they might not tell other people (other than Santa) and it leaves me wondering what more I, and other teachers like me, can do since our country’s economy is in perilous state.

While chatting with a colleague a few hours prior to hearing Tesh, I was telling her about the “Random Acts of Kindness” Website, which has an array of lesson plans and activity ideas for teachers of all age groups. I informed her the “Kind Words About My Classmates” Activity I did a couple of years ago while teaching in NYC. I didn’t do it around the holidays, but I do recall one of my students telling me, the day he received all of the kind words from his classmates, that “it felt like Christmas.” I suggested that each student complete four notes to classmates, anonymously, with kind words about that person. Then, each child could create some cardstock boxes, like the ones featured on Mirkwood Designs’ Website, to house the kind words for each classmate. Then, with a little bit of fanfare, the children could exchange their boxes of kind words with their peers.

As I was throwing clay slabs on the table, I realized that this might be the right time of year to extend “Kind Words to My Classmates.” Not only does it give students a venue for writing, but it also fills a void that many children are experiencing this year. Many of your students, regardless of where we teach, are not going to receive what they want for the holidays this year. Therefore, I feel it’s our duty, as teachers, to make up for that loss in another way. (NOTE: I am not saying that this should become a Kind Words Exchange for Christmas, Chanukkah, or Kwanzaa, due to the separation of church and state!) Perhaps when we tell others how we really feel about them, by saying something kind, it will help them feel better about themselves. And, if a child receives words of kindness from several people, regardless of what’s happening at home, just for a moment, his/her wish to be respected, noticed, and valued is granted. And, when we get down to it, don’t we all just want to be respected, noticed, and valued for who we are?