Monday, December 08, 2008

Big Words for the season

Dear Santa;

Every year you get letter upon letter saying, "I want this. I want that." Some are more polite, saying Please and asking how you are. This year may be no different... or will it?

There are some Big Words out there in the world that strike fear into a lot of adults. Economy. Recession. Layoffs. Unemployment. Debt. Kids don't always understand meanings of these words, but they feel the stress that comes from the situations. The younger the children, the more likely they'll feel the emotional turmoil and the less likely they'll understand it.

Santa, I know it doesn't feel right to stuff a stocking with soap and shampoo. Those are supposed to be necessities, not gifts. But this year, the little gifts might be even more important. Crayons. Pencils. Markers. Paper.
I'm giving my students a little cup of goodies. They'll each get a pack of tissues, a new pencil, a candy cane. If I can swing it, they'll each get a white-board marker, too. The candy cane is the only frivolous item, but I know they'll enjoy the others, too.
You see, Santa, the little ones in my class get colds whether they're rich or poor. Germs don't discriminate. And the tissues in my classroom are running out, with the generic scratchy products left to take us through the winter. If a kiddo has his or her own little package of something soft, maybe that will be a small pleasure for those noses that rival Rudoph's in redness.
There's a big gap between the haves and the have-nots in my school. Some families bought their kids big packages of white board markers. Some couldn't afford to even buy one. When I'm working with white boards as a check for understanding, you can guess which kids need to beg or borrow markers. Santa, if you and I can help these kids out, they won't have to feel depressed every time we get out the white boards. The students from less-well off families can reach into their own desks to get supplies of their own.
The other day I heard a teacher complain, "Flash cards? Who gets flash cards in their stocking at Christmas?!" I understand. It's kind of like getting underwear for a holiday gift; what fun is that? So along with the marker and the tissues, I'll give a holiday pencil. Plain yellow #2 just wouldn't have the same impact as something in red or green or another festive design. It'll let the kids get their schoolwork done and still make the season bright.

Money, Santa, is not a children's problem. It's a grown-up problem. But the problems inherent in today's economic crisis trickle down to children's everyday lives. When parents have to choose between buying shoes for their kids or paying the rent, kids feel the pain. When parents can't afford healthy snacks for mid-morning, kids get hungry. When the car doesn't start and the parents don't have the discretionary bucks to fix it, the young ones have to walk to school in the bitter cold. It takes time for those little ones to physically warm up enough to focus on learning.

Santa, I'd love to ask you to deliver safety and warmth and some basics to each and every child in need. But I know that you and your elves can't solve these economic problems any more than I can. All of us will just have to tighten our belts, give where we can, and most of all, understand. Let's understand that when parents lose their jobs, kids suffer. And let's take care of the small things, like markers and pencils and candy canes, so that their suffering is limited even a little bit.

Thanks Santa. Have a Happy Holiday. Hug the elves and reindeer for me.

Lots of love,

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Blogger margalit said...

Do you think your kids might need toiletries? Like shampoo and toothpaste? Because I could get a box together and send it to you. I've got a lot.

12/08/2008 8:58 AM  
Blogger Lara said...

Beautifully written!

for what it's worth, I have always put socks, shampoo and soap in my children's stockings. Maybe because that was what was always in mine?

12/08/2008 10:06 AM  
Blogger Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

You are such a bighearted teacher.

12/08/2008 10:46 AM  

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