Friday, February 14, 2014

February: Fun Dip or Flowers?

The way you answer that question solely depends on whether or not you teach elementary school.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: there is no more trying holiday for a teacher than Valentine’s Day.  If you teach elementary school, there is too much candy.  If you teach middle school, there is too much drama.  And if you teach high school, I don’t even want to think about what there is too much of... 

For an elementary teacher, the difference between Valentine’s Day and all the other holidays is that this is the only one where they ALL bring STUFF TO each other.  Back in my day, you simply exchanged cards, the class mom brought in cupcakes, and you called it a day.  Nowadays, there is an explosion of candy hearts, M&Ms, Skittles, little chocolates, plastic rings, temporary tattoos, and Fun Dip (oh, the Fun Dip…) Some years, even in fourth grade, there is a “couple” or two and you can throw in a teddy bear and a box of chocolates.  The kids are so hyped up and the mess is unimaginable.  By the time I survive the day, spending a romantic evening with my husband is out of the question.  It’s usually frozen pizza and a foot rub for me on the evening of February 14th.  If he’s lucky, I’ll feel like a teacher and not a Dollar Tree manager again by the weekend.

The passing out of the goods is such an ordeal that we begin a week before and encourage parents to send in the treats early so they don’t all have to distribute on the same day in total chaos (in this regard, we’ve outsmarted the floral delivery services).  This plan means there are little red and white bags, exploding with 10-year-old Valentine’s Day bliss, lining the whiteboard at the front of my classroom today, unattended and untouched, thanks to the massive snowstorm of 2014.  The surprising thing is that after spending eight years complaining about Valentine’s Day in my classroom, I’m a little sad not to be there today.  While I know this is partly due to the fact that now the Valentine’s Day hoopla will occur on a Monday and not a Friday (oh, the horror…), it’s more than that. 

There is nothing like those little faces when they get their bag of Valentine cards (and other STUFF…).  While you’d think they’d be tearing into the Fun Dip first thing, you’d be surprised.   I’ve yet to see a child who doesn’t sit there and read every single card, from every single classmate.  They smile, they giggle, they raise their eyebrows, they share the best ones with the person who sits beside them, and they simply eat up every word… BEFORE they eat up the three candy items that I allow them to carefully choose before they bag up the rest to take home. 

The whole scene always makes me kind of wish that adults still did Valentine’s Day in a similar way.  Who doesn’t need a word of affirmation from time to time?  A compliment, a laugh, a reminder that you’re needed, wanted, even noticed at all… It all matters, it all helps, it all brings a smile to their faces and a little comfort to their hearts.   And isn’t that what Valentine’s Day is all about?  Letting someone else know they matter to you? I’m sure most of the kids in my class will have already heard “Happy Valentine’s Day” from their parents, the way most of us have already heard it from our significant others today, but what about the other people in your life?   Bring a smile to someone’s face and a little comfort to their heart, and tell them they matter, you notice, and your heart would be a little (or a lot) emptier without them. 

I’ll miss being in my classroom today because it’s the day that it’s most clear to me that we all need each other, every single day, not just on this one day that we “celebrate” love.  It’ll be nice to prove to my kids next week that it doesn’t have to be February 14th for us to share a little love with each other.  In fact, I think I’ll tell them we should try it more often.

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