Wednesday, December 5, 2007

But, merry Christmas~

I have a friend, Ross, who lives across the Atlantic in West Amble, a Dickensian sounding village in windswept Northern England.

To read his emails one would think it's always raining or blowing up a gale from the sea, or at this time of the year, sleeting. Maybe it is. Ross says, the past summer "lasted two days, and it was only warm enough for shorts one of those."

He's a truly funny man and I look forward to his common sense comments couched in humor. Make that humour.

In his latest missive he says, " Your last year teaching ... you'll be counting it in months by January, if not already ...

Actually, on the first day of school in September I started putting the "days left" count on my calendar. One hundred-twenty-something left! That's not saying I don't still enjoy the business of teaching a room full of ten and eleven year olds. I do. But I can look forward to the end at the same time, and I am.

He says, "I wonder if, in years past, you had an eye on the class below yours that would become yours "next year" when they moved up. Dreading certain little horrors. Do teachers warn each other: "Look out for that one!"?

Yes, we do. Judging from the whisperings and warnings, the class I will not be around to teach next year is . . . searching for a professional term . . . a doozy.

Classes have their personalities, as do the individuals that comprise them. The up-coming fifth graders are apparently . . . searching again . . . needy.

We also tell the next year's teachers when they can expect a gem of a class, too. They cycle, the doozies and the gems. I'm ending my career with a diamond in the rough class that will be a polished gem I'll set in my good memories come June.

Ross concluded his email with this: "Hoping this finds you well in the land of paper chains (kids still make them, yes?)"

Sadly, no. I'm not sure exactly when we stopped the fun, holiday art activities, but a combination of "tolerance" and "testing" drained the carefree freedom to celebrate the holidays right out of the public schools. And then there are the fire department inspections where the chief makes sure that no more than twenty percent of the wall is covered with flammable paper. The red and green chains would be pulled down anyway.

Each December the superintendent of schools sends teachers a letter telling us to refrain from the mention of Christmas lest we offend. Those who celebrate Chanukah apologize saying they don't care what we deck the halls with. Privately we say Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas in the same breath. Left alone, we don't tolerate; we embrace.

Then there are the tests. So that no child will be left behind, we follow a stringent list of state curriculum standards that must be taught at prescribed grade levels, then tested at the end of the year in a one size fits all state test.

Unfortunately making paper garlands is not in the curriculum, and we have no time to teach anything that isn't going to be tested. No time to relax and have fun. No time to let kids develop at their own pace. No time for real life.

But merry Christmas! And happy holidays of all sorts.
Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love. - Hamilton Wright Mabie


Janice Thomson said...

I can't believe you're told not to mention Christmas! I also heard Santa clauses are no longer to say 'Ho, ho , ho' for fear of offending someone. I think this politically correct business has gotten way out of hand. I read somewhere that pretty soon churches will only have a very tiny sign saying 'Worship held here' so as not to offend non-Christian folk driving by. I can't imagine what the world will be like for my great grand-children. I don't belong to a particular church but I am delighted if someone wishes me Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah - I think I just did a rant LOl

kissa said...

Break the rules and make the paper chains the kids will love it and the lessons in team work will be huge and valuable. In the UK the curriculum is prescriptive with rules just there to be broken. OK don't break them all just sometimes there will be fun for everyone. I taught for many years and broke the rules when I felt it benefitted all involved.
Oh and Happy Chri... or Chanu......oh just be happy.

Jennifer Curtis said...

Oh the garlands! I so remember them fondly. I really enjoyed the holiday preparations we made in school; gifts for parents, ornaments for our tree. We've kept all those things over the years, my mother and I. Kind of sad that we don't have kids create those keepsakes now. In the desire to be 'sensitive' we've indeed lost some of the sweetness of the season. Great post Ruth.

Janis said...

Your post reminds me of my boys when they were little. Do you write professionally? You have skills. :)

Ruth D~ said...

Janice~ The "worship held here" sign. Now that's bad.

Jen~ You'll have to make up for the lack of sweetness in the schools, by making sweet memories at home. I know you already do.

Janis~ How old are your boys? Did they get any of the holiday craft time while in school? Some of what I have written in linked in the left column of my blog (if You're interested.) Thanks for your comment. :>)

daisies said...

how sad ... my son always brought home paper garland and other fun creations from school ... he still brings home fun stuff (he's in grade 8) but he goes to a performing arts school and so its all part of it i suppose ...

Anonymous said...

I live in the Northeast and we love telling people how cold it is!

rain said...

Oh how kids love the holidays at school, no matter hwat it is. Our school does call our Christmas Concert a Winter Celebration, but the children do sing Christmas songs, and others too. Aidan sang "the 9 days of Hannekuh" when he was in grade one. Last night Katie sang a Christmas Song and Aidan danced to "Rockin Around the Christmas Tree". They love the crafts and seasonal projects too. They do, however, go to a school that is likely 95% christmas celebraters. As the daughter of a teacher, I remember the difference in years that my mom had a class of "gems" and a class of "not gems". Aidan's is gemmy - Katie's - not so much.

Our next two photo challenges are not location based - why not join in? We could also link to flickr pages..

Tere said...

I love what you have to say. It is what I deal with every day also. When I first started teaching we managed to turn out gems and have the holiday activities that included all different types of holiday celebrations, not just Christmas. Since all that has been taken away, I feel like something is missing. Not the religious piece, more the sense of community and the feeling of "belonging" in school. The shared effort of creating something that isn't "learning" related. I am sad that it feels broken.

Ruth D~ said...

Daisies~ He must be getting lots of enrichment at his school.

Angela~ So they say! I can't compare; I was born and raised here, but *I'm* warm. :>)

Rain~ "As the daughter of a teacher" I bet you hear the tales at the supper table. Let me know what the photo challenges are. I don't want to but in or make it hard, but . . . I'm curious.

Tere~ Spoken as only someone from the "trenches" could. We should compare notes.

Wanda said...

Oh my goodness different when our children were in school. Of course they range from 37-45 now...School has changed! I'm so glad we still have good teachers like yourself. It gives me hope for my grandchildren!
Merry Christmas...:)