Folks, it's a loooooong old week for teachers.
But this past Friday, the final day before the break, I was surprised twice by kindness.
Once was just for me individually: I received a small gift from a student. (It was a mug.)
This sort of thing used to happen all the time, years ago. I'd often go home for break with a whole bag of treats, cards from appreciative parents, notes from kids, and small gifts. But, over the past decade, with politicians and the media continually demonizing teachers, it's rare for me to receive even a candy cane anymore.
This student, however, is an immigrant from a country where teachers are traditionally shown more respect than they are here; that probably had something to do with it. And I was touched by the gesture. He was so proud to bring in the wrapped gift, and he wanted me to open it right then and there. :)
I don't need the mug, of course, but I found I really DID need the warm fuzziness of having a student -- and his parents -- give me a mug. THAT was an awesome Christmas gift.
The other bit of kindness involved the whole school, and I do mean the whole school.
Everyone arrived Friday morning to find every single locker in the whole school and every single teacher's mail box with a hand-made, handwritten holiday card on/in it. The cards were simple: just red or green construction paper and black magic marker with one of several non-religious greetings therein. (Mine said, "We hope you have a winter break filled with fun!")
There was much speculation as to who had done this (I had to assure several kids that no one from the office staff would have had time to do such a thing.), but the principal explained a bit later to the teachers. It so happened that an 8th-grade girl had approached her in November and explained that she felt bad that there were some kids at our school who would get very little for Christmas. She wanted to do something. When she asked if she could put cards on every locker, the principal tried to talk her out of it because our school has over 1000 kids. But the girl was insistent, and the principal gave in. Apparently, the girl enlisted the help of two friends, and together, these girls made over 1000 holiday cards, then -- with the blessing of the administration and the custodians -- taped them to every locker and put them in every teacher's mailbox.
True, many kids didn't appreciate it, and there were ripped up cards all over the place in the halls. But then other kids took pity on our over-worked custodians (two are out on long-term illness issues, and we're chronically short-handed right now), and these kids began picking up messes that other kids had made.
Still, most kids were impressed that someone had taken the time to make every person a card. I saw at least a few students carrying those cards with them to class. (I took mine home to save, even though I don't know the girl who made them.) It was nice to know that some kid had put that much effort into trying to make sure that everyone had at least one bit of holiday cheer.
I've been teaching a long time, and that's the first time I've ever heard of a kid doing such a thing. It makes me hope she'll go on to be a leader or business owner who organizes people into forces for good.