Until this year, I never realized how much I miss holiday festivities at school.
Twenty five years ago, I taught in a special education classroom for kids with significant disabilities. We decorated a tree, baked cookies, made presents for friends and families, and sent the kids home with armloads of presents. It was a time of LOVE and JOY. For many of these kids, it was the only holiday celebration they would have. We were respectful of the cultural differences of families and tried to have "something for everyone." Santa visited, we lit candles for Kwanzaa, and we played the dreidel game. We had a choral performance featuring songs from around the world and rejoiced in the season of giving and peace.
Fast forward two decades. That same school is now "holiday neutral." After reading countless blogs and seeing hundreds of trees, elves, Santas, dreidels, and the like, I realize that we are, instead, "holiday missing."
I TRULY recognize the importance of being respectful of every child and family. And I would never want to offend anyone. But I feel like my "holiday spirit" has been put on hold until the last child leaves school and "winter break" begins. Not a wreath, candy cane or holly sprig is in sight. We just do our work and count the days.
In order to help ease my heavy heart, I have helped the Student Council organize a canned food drive. By focusing on the needs of others, I hope we can kindle a little "good will" in recognition of the needs of so many people this year. Through encouraging the "spirit of giving," maybe I will feel like I am, in a small way, bringing the sentiment of the season into my second home.
And, in reality, I understand and accept the restrictions. Maybe it just makes me feel so old because "It wasn't always this way." And, perhaps, it makes me feel sad because we are missing a chance to connect with many kids and families. I worry that by saying nothing, we suggest that it is best to feel nothing about the many traditions and celebrations that ARE a part of many children's lives. Like a missing puzzle piece, these two weeks feel incomplete.
Next week, I will miss handing out candy canes and little presents. I will miss hearing a chorus of "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" as I send the students out the door. I will wish them a safe and happy "two weeks away." But, in my heart, regardless of how--or if--they celebrate, I will be hoping for whatever will fill their days with JOY and PEACE.