This is part of Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life. Find out more, and join in here.
Valentine’s Day has never been my favorite holiday. I can take it or leave it. I don’t need overpriced roses, a giant teddy bear or a big heart of chocolate.
For as long as I’ve been a teacher, I’ve turned Valentine’s Day into a celebration of affirmations and appreciations. It’s a tradition that my kids’ school does in every classroom, and I’ve mostly stolen it from them. Every student writes to every other student: A true compliment, affirmation, or message of appreciation. Every year my students are nervous. They don’t believe they will be able to say something nice about everyone in the class. They don’t believe people will have nice things to say about them. Every year they are wrong. Every year it is a wonderful day of school: We pass out affirmations, read them and celebrate how amazing we all are.
I love watching my own kids create their Valentine’s every year too. In kindergarten all of the work is done in school, but by the time kids are in second or third grade, some must be done at home. Especially if you are working slowly at school, like certain 9 year olds I know… H was concerned because he wanted each affirmation to be special. It was a flashback to last year, which was the first year he agonized over each shape.
Last year, H’s friend who liked cheese got his Valentine affirmation written on a 3-D wedge of cheese crafted from construction paper. This year he made a miniature version of one friend, a detailed picture of Spongebob farting for a classmate that loves Spongebob and humor. There was a mustache, balloons, a finger trap and more. Each classmate was thoroughly thought about before H decided what shape, picture and decoration should go on his creation. He had already written the actual affirmations at school. (Thank Goodness.) Each time I tried to convince him that it would go more quickly if we just cut out some hearts, he would respond with frustrated concern, “I don’t want some kids to get boring ones. That would just hurt their feelings.” I so appreciated the creativity and kindness behind his mission. But the amount of hours spent, construction paper dropped on the floor, and tears over making things perfect was maybe a bit much for my personal stress-level!
My big kids celebrated Valentine’s Day on Thursday, and that night I listened as they read their affirmations from their classmates.
“You are so helpful.”
“I always picture you as a scientist when you grow up.”
“You are humorous and kind”
“You are great pal to hang around with”
My daughter even wrote heartfelt affirmations for her brothers, who drive her crazy most days.
“Maybe Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite days.” I thought for a moment, as my heart gave a little tug, “Maybe I have time to write affirmations for my students.” I reminded myself that not only did I not have time… I’m also not their teacher any more!
Checking in on Facebook, I was met with a Facebook memory from last year’s Valentine’s Affirmation Party Eve.
That was a little heart-tugging too, but I got over it. “It’s nice to not have to write 50 love poems this year,” I told myself.
My first meeting at school on Friday was with a teacher who used to teach at my kids’ school and was my daughter’s teacher. I noticed her morning message was about their Valentine’s Day party and affirmations. I was wistful, but okay.
I headed over to the middle school, where I found a book with my name on it on the lost and found table. When I walked into my old classroom to put the book away, I found my students passing out compliments, with construction paper hearts at their tables. I still may have been okay, if the kids didn’t shout hello… if one of the boys hadn’t jumped up and given me a hug… if another hadn’t said, “Wait! I have something for you!” as he ran out to his locker to get me a box of chocolates.
If not for the hug and the box of chocolates, I might not have gone back to my office to cry.
Maybe Valentine’s Day is more important to me than I thought. It is one of the touchstones of each school year. Years ago, I tried to explain this idea to an intern. I wanted her to understand that a school year has an ebb and flow, and know that there are certain benchmarks, like seasons to the energy of both teaching and learning. This year, leaving the classroom in January, I am reflecting on that ebb and flow. Certain seasons, like Valentine’s, I miss. However there are some I won’t be shedding tears over this year. (Can you say PSSAs?)
What season of teaching do you love?