Tuesday, December 17, 2013

*Surviving the Week Before Christmas at School

The week before Christmas vacation gets a little crazy in an elementary school.  Every teacher secretly dreads battling the energy force that permeates the halls and classrooms, and every parent is all too glad to send the children off to that big brick building to keep their kids busy as the countdown to the 25th drags on, second by eternal second.

Recently, I posted the eCard above on Facebook for my friends who teach fifth grade this year.  We were talking about the craziness that is the week of this major holiday.  One of my friends asked if I had any advice. I thought about it for awhile, and this is what I told her.

"I just tried to ride the wave, and went with the flow. We talked about service we could do for people at home and school. We wrote opinion pieces on Shaking, Poking, & Peeking (is it better to wait or is it more fun to find out what you're getting early...FUN discussion w/ friendly conflict right there!). Free times were good for arts & crafts that could double as gifts. The kids are just so excited about everything, and I would just rather use that to my advantage than fight it. Have fun next week. I know it's like trying to hold a lid on a boiling pot!"

In fifth grade, it was a tradition to have the children wear Santa hats for the Christmas sing-along the day before Christmas vacation.  Last year, my last year of teaching, I decided to give my kids their hats on that last Monday.  I knew the rest of my team might not share my enthusiasm for the holidays, so I just told the kids to wear them whenever they were with me. 

Did I just tell you I invited the craziness into my classroom four days earlier than I had to?  Yep, I did.  I passed out the Santa hats, and watched the magic happen.  And we had the most delightful week ever.  I suggested that each day when we put on our Santa hats, we remember to be Santa's helpers by doing good things for our friends.  They each drew a name, selecting someone as a special friend for the week.  Three of our students needed assistance with some tasks.  I saw these children as angels among us. The three boys inspired us all to be better people, to be kinder, and more compassionate. The kids stepped up and volunteered to help the boys with their Secret Santa jobs. We just did simple things, writing notes for each other, bringing in a treat or a piece of gum for a friend.  The camaraderie in our room continued to grow even more. 
Our class angels, Seth, Adam, and Calvin.
My class was extra-large last year; I had 35 kids by the end of April.  Buying nice, fluffy Santa hats was out of the question, so it was really no surprise to me that the pompoms started dropping off the tops, and the seams started pulling loose. No problem. The kids assured me they could sew them back together, so I sent out an email request, and received needles and threads from the parents the next morning. During indoor recesses and lunch breaks, my little helpers were busy helping each other keep their cheap little hats together.  
Nash, I'd recognize those helpful hands anywhere!

Do you know what happens when it snows?  The first child to notice it feels compelled to make a spontaneous weather announcement to the group, and everyone strains to see out of the small window of the classroom door. I just went with it.

"Grab your coats," I announced.  "We're taking a picture!"  All of them ran to the tree on the playground. We took a moment to commemorate the snow, trying to catch a flake on our tongues. What did it hurt?  Nothing.  The fresh air did them good, and taking a sec to acknowledge the snow allowed them to focus on schoolwork once we returned to our classroom. 

When one of their favorite substitute teachers popped in my room to deliver a gift, she was rushed by the group with hugs and Christmas wishes. I took a picture. I didn't want to forget any of this...the love they have for Mrs. Issa, for each other, and for me made me so happy.

When I look at the pictures from last year, I remember the week of Christmas as special, not wild. As a teacher, I was finally learning that when I remember I'm teaching CHILDREN first, the curriculum falls into place.  I took each moment as it came, working hard to be present, fully aware of the students, and how special they each were.  I went with the flow, and I rode the wave. I don't regret a minute of it.  

Bo and Nash, so studious.

I have such good memories of this week.

Ethan and Jen, hard at work.

We often played Christmas carols while doing our work.  It kept a calm atmosphere in the room, believe it or not.

Good friends, Jett and Jaden always worked well together.

Talmage was always so willing to help others.

My girlies.

The friendships formed this year will last a lifetime.

They were such good workers, and not just the week before Christmas!

Catching snowflakes on their tongues...

Miss Lilly


Best buds and cousins!


These guys were so fun!

My Michayla.

My team teased me that I looked like a Russian babushka.  Kenz, I would do winter recesses with you again; it was fun.

Mrs. Gleave didn't mind our wearing our hats to the media center. Love our librarian!

Loving that heater...Mr. Bo.

Some of the best teachers, and friends, at Monroe!

Jenessa, what a sweetie.

Love these faces.

My favorite pic of Mr. Sethers.

See? Adia's even raising her hand.  They never forgot their manners, even while nearly everyone was wearing Santa hats. 

Gathering by the heater was a fun tradition during the chilly winter mornings.

Some of my favorite memories took place at the couch, our place for class meetings.

Can you just feel the love?  I love you, Seth and Calvin!

Our favorite sub, my dear friend Sharmel, achieved Rock Star Status with these kids. 

Best team ever!  Miss these good people.

The Christmas Sing-Along at the elementary school.

For me, the holidays don't have to be a problem.  A full moon however...yeah, good luck with that!


  1. Brought tears to my eyes! I am so thankful that I got to share that year with you. Ofa atu

  2. Talmage still has his hat....I've been putting it on his bear on his bed then Sunday morning he plopped it on Bethanys head just before church...I mildly protested then let it be and she wore it all thru church (its just as well because then it covered her messy hair).

    1. I can't believe it lasted; they were not the highest quality. ;-) Love it!


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