Monday, December 14, 2009

Keeping It Simple

The first year I had my own classroom, I was all about The Celebrating at Christmas . We counted down the days until Christmas with little Oscar the Grouches glued on wreaths, removing one a day for the month before the Big Day. We made Christmas gifts for the parents, leaving glitter on every conceivable surface, where I am sure it remains to this day. If there had been an open fire, we would have roasted chestnuts on it. Did I mention that I had 35 fifth graders that year? In an Air Force Base community that had a rotating door on every classroom.  I ended the year with only a small percentage of my original litter of students. And I must ask myself, with you as my witness, WHAT WAS I THINKING?

Well, apparently I wasn't thinking. I was still young enough in 1981 that I'm not sure my frontal lobe was fully developed. My processing skills were severely hampered, and I was missing the gray matter that should have signaled to me: "Danger, Will Robinson. Avoid extra stimulation in the classroom during the pre-holiday season at all cost." Because there is plenty of excitement oozing from the childrens' pores without a teacher feeding the flame with an afternoon of sugar cookie decorating, popcorn stringing, and tree trimming. And placing the desks in a circle around the tree for a week, so we could admire its flashing and blinking lights synched to Christmas music. I wish I could say I was kidding or even exaggerating. What I can say is: if you were a 5th grader in the early 80s in a school district northwest of Fort Worth, I apologize with all my heart for the month of learning you missed out on. I hope you  went on to the college of your choice, not hampered by a huge black hole created in your brain while we made green and red paper chains instead of working on long division.

Fast forward to December 2009. I am in a portable classroom with 19 six-year olds who are sure that Santa is on his way. Their brains quit translating the noises coming out of my mouth weeks ago, and they can only decipher a steady stream of "blah, blah, blahs" floating around my head. Not unlike visions of sugar plums. At any moment I can look down and see at least one child spinning on the carpet for no apparent reason except it is there. I can shake my head "no" in any direction and five children will immediately stop what they are doing. Holiday Decorating in my room is at a minimum. These last weeks of December have been designated by the State as Time To Test in all subject areas, and then Enter the Data Online. There is no time for holly being jolly, or the fire being delightful while the weather outside is frightful. This is Testing Time, by golly! Except I'm pretty sure the kids did not get the memo.

So what is a teacher to do when her room is engulfed in the great shadow that is the looming Holiday Season? Exactly what we should all be doing: Sitting on the floor with the children. Singing holiday songs. Reading silly holiday books that make us all laugh and roll on the carpet even  more. And looking straight into those bright little eyes, because that is the best part of all. They are excited because everything is new to them at age six; everything contains possibilities and promise.

Loyal Sister bought this sweet minimal tree for my classroom. Don't you love it? Charlie Brown originally got his tree to "set the mood" for the holiday that had been taken over by commercialism.  I don't see that among my  classroom crowd. When asked what they wanted for Christmas, the majority wanted a machine that would make them fly, not a Zhu Zhu pet. I hope there is a collective "ahhhhhhhh!" going up from the audience. They are just simple in their wants and needs. Extraordinarily loud, but still simple.

I end with a quote  from one of my favorite bloggers, a mom of triplets, "My hands are full, but so is my heart." May it always be for all of us during this precious season of wonder.


Dawn said...

I surely do wish to have been a student in your classroom! How blessed they are and it's very obvious that they are a blessing to you, too!

Locketts said...

I laughed aloud at the child spinning on the carpet. So glad I'm not the only new teacher who did silly things around holidays. A science lesson at Easter where I dyed eggs with 40 4th graders? Didn't happen the second year for sure.

Anonymous said...

LOL!!! Textbook learning so overrated! Spontaneity with some underlying structure is the key!? Your kids will remember you forever..for sure!!!
God bless you for your dedication and ingenuity!

Anonymous said...

I feel so fortunate to have my child in your class. Your Christmas letter brough tears to my eyes. It would be such a blessing for all children to be blessed with such wonderful memories of their childhood--due to wonderful parents. I am thankful that your mission is teaching. Bless You.