Just last week, I was reconsidering the 100th Day of School, and what, if anything, we should be doing in the classroom for this day. Now this week, my mind has shifted to Valentine’s Day. I’m not a fan of celebrating Valentine’s Day at school. I never have been. In fact, I’m not really a fan of the Hallmark holiday itself. Maybe it’s growing up with parents that always believed and articulated the important question of, “Why should we love somebody anymore on one day of the year versus another?” I know that there’s more to Valentine’s Day than this, but I still question celebrating it.
This year is one of those years that I question Valentine’s Day more than ever.
- Valentine’s Day celebrations mean a change in classroom routine. They often mean more unstructured time. I have students that would struggle with this, and I want all students to be successful. If we are celebrating Valentine’s Day, how can we address these student needs and create a successful environment for all?
- Valentine’s Day is not even on a school day. It’s on a Saturday. So why celebrate it at school?
- The Friday before Valentine’s Day (February 13th) is a PA Day for us. The students aren’t at school. Now to celebrate Valentine’s Day, we either need to go back to the 12th or ahead to the 17th (as the Monday is Family Day, and again, no school).
- We’re just beginning a new Phonemic Awareness Intervention Strategy. This is a Grade 1 initiative that aligns with one of our primary division areas of focus. We’re testing this plan out to see how it goes. But if we make February 12th all about Valentine’s Day, does this mean cancelling our groups? Do we want to do so when we’re still in the initial phases of this new system?
I know that I can link Valentine’s Day to curriculum expectations.
- There are lots of connections with Learning Skills: from working independently and collaboratively to demonstrating self-regulation (especially on a day that lacks in regular routines).
- Students can write letters and create cards that also align with the form, spelling, and generating and organizing ideas expectations for Writing.
- There are tons of books on friendship and love that could align with the decoding and comprehension expectations for Reading and the listening comprehension expectations for Oral Language.
- There is also a good overlap with our Social Studies expectation on changing responsibilities when circumstances and situations change. With the change in routine on this day, we can look at how responsibilities may change, and what these new responsibilities will be.
But even with these links, is celebrating Valentine’s Day still the best option? I could ask the students what they think, but if they want to celebrate Valentine’s Day, why is that? I noticed that some students got excited about the holiday when they saw that February is almost here. They really wanted a “party.” Do we need a party though? What could be the possible impact on those students that struggle during unstructured time? Am I setting them up for failure? How could I at least scaffold the learning for them?
I’m starting to wonder about addressing the meaning behind “Valentine’s Day.” I know that many of the students still speak about The Kindness Crew from our December learning adventures. Maybe Valentine’s Day at school could be less about a day of celebration, and more about weeks of spreading kindness and making a difference. Maybe the students can think of some ways to do this, and we can use their ideas to jump start a change at the classroom and school level. And it’s as I’m writing this, that I also thought of another idea.
- What if we created the “Kindness Catchers?”
Every day, two students would be responsible for “catching” kindness in action. Every hour, they would need to take a photograph of “kindness.” Then the next day, they could put these photographs together in PicCollage, iMovie, Explain Everything, or Puppet Pals, and talk about the acts of kindness. Students would be learning how to work collaboratively, addressing multiple Language expectations — including creating media texts (for Media Literacy) — and learning to tell time to the hour (but in a meaningful context).
I think that I’m still going to talk to the class about how they would like to celebrate Valentine’s Day, the reasons behind their decisions, and how we can link the celebrations to the real meaning behind the day. They could even work on organizing a plan (I see some meaningful writing options here), and we could then finalize things and maybe create a Valentine’s Day that’s about more than just a party. What do you think? How do you address these special days? I’d welcome any feedback as I work at becoming less of a Valentine’s Day Grinch. 🙂
I think you have the first topic for your first class meeting.
Great idea, Herman! It’s something definitely worth discussing.
I wonder when your students are excited about the idea of a party if they could articulate what specifically they want to do at a party – share treats? Play games? I would think if they can articulate what they want you could find a compromise that supports learning, socialization and self regulation and one that will feel special to the students.
Thanks for the comment, Kristi! I think this is a wonderful idea. I bet that they could share what they want out of a party — especially if we share orally and I give some thinking time first. While I don’t really want a whole day celebration, I think that I could live with a short one. I’d love if the students took more ownership over this plan too, and then I could help support those students that might need it.
I am reading this post after coming back from school and I am amazed to see that I was thinking of the same thing in school too. Leslie, Mrs. Mulder and I (all grade 1 teachers) were talking about the same topic too. We were discussing about those families who are not together or those who lost their loved ones in this month. During my morning meeting with my class, I asked my students that how would they like to celebrate Valentine Day today and their answers were cutting hearts, writing cards for their mom, dads and friends. At that point of time I was thinking that as a teacher we take control and decide that party could be only option to celebrate special days , whereas the kids brain might be thinking in different way.
Thank you for making me reflect upon my decision.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Hema! I love how you spoke to the students about what they wanted. In the end, this is what I decided to do as well. They really wanted to exchange valentines, play some games and/or build with blocks or lego, draw and/or write, and have a few treats. This seemed very doable, and this is what we ended up doing. Sometimes I think that we envision a huge party, and just a small celebration means a lot to the students. I’m so glad that everything worked out in the end. It sounds like it also did for you!