If you read my post Celebrate, Advocate, Educate, you know that I am festive to the core and find any excuse to party, eat, or raise awareness. But like so many people the holidays can be a reminder of some tough stuff. The holidays can remind us of financial burdens, lost loved ones, tough decisions and family feuds. So many teachers are under pressure this time of year because students may not have performed up to standard for the first quarter and expectations for improvement are set for the second. With so many things getting in the way how do we really get into the holiday spirit? And why is it important that we do?
For me, my first plan of attack I like to call the Charlie Brown Method. I literally watch Linus’ monologue from the 1965 classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas. It centers me on the real meaning on the season not just because Linus is quoting the Bible but because he is taking a moment to think about what the real meaning is behind the things we do. What is our real meaning behind giving gifts? Is it because we want a gift in return or is it because we want to show that person how much we care about them with a physical sign? What is our real meaning behind spending time with family? Is it guilt or it is because we know that we have a deep relationship of love and understanding that can only be experienced by being together? Wow! Deep stuff, right?! But it’s true! If we think about why we do all of these holiday obligations, they might not seem like obligations at all.
The second plan of attack is to help. Yes, help. Help others. Whether it be to donate time or money, or to go shopping with a friend who is anxious about what to buy her new sister-in-law or make cookies with that Aunt who is slowing down from arthritis, helping is an act of charity and thanksgiving which is exactly what the season should be about. It feels good to help someone and is usually contagious. It has a pay-it-forward effect on most people and that can only lead to good things.
Why do teachers need a healthy dose of holiday spirit? Well, for starters, students have been thinking about winter vacation since Sept. 1. However, I have found that teachers have been thinking about vacation since August 31. Why do we check out mentally before the students even do? I believe that by getting into the holiday spirit, we are renewed and reenergized for the next few weeks leading up to the winter break. Don’t believe me?
Have you ever seen A Christmas Story? In the movie, the children are given an assignment to write about what they want Santa to bring them and why. Ralphie, the main character, is probably more energetic about writing this assignment than he ever has been before! Talking about the holidays can be a bit politically incorrect but asking children if they could have any gift they wanted and why is something they are thinking about anyway and usually prompts some good argumentative writing.
There’s also helping that can be done in the classroom. There are opportunities for students do great things in their communities this time of year. Food drives, writing holiday card to military members, and collecting loose change are all things that your students could do as a group to remember those who are less fortunate. Remembering the less fortunate each day helps students to value their education and helps teachers value the work they are doing.
One sign of the season that spans across most cultures and faiths is light. Twinkling lights, candles and stars are all symbols of the season. Often in education settings a light bulb is an image for an epiphany or an “Ah ha!” moment. A lamp is an international symbol of knowledge. This holiday season, let us take a look at all the lights in our lives. Let us be a beacon of light to our students and guide them through tough times (remember, even though they are just children, the holidays can be hard for them too). Let us not look at Winter break as the light at the end of the tunnel but rather make the most of the journey there. Let us think about everything that Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, Festivus, and whatever else you and yours might celebrate means to you and bring that spirit to your work and your life. No matter what the holiday, we are reminded to be a light to others for the holidays and every day.