A Teacher’s Thoughts On Holidays

The jokes are all over my Facebook feed right now regarding things teachers say during the last two weeks of school before winter break. Those of us who teach look at them, share them and laugh. “Just survive somehow”; it’s one of our private little teacher jokes (or just my own “The Walking Dead” joke).

My friends who are not teachers joke with me, too, but this joke is more like poking fun — how bad can it be when you’re about to have two weeks off, right? Well, guess what? It can be difficult. Here’s why.

Most people think that the last two weeks are so “unbearable” because kids are just excited to get out of school for a while. For the most part, that is a true statement. I wouldn’t, however, say it is the truth. The truth is that it is “unbearable” for reasons people don’t like to think about or talk about. See, there are some kids who DON’T want to miss school for two weeks. The reasons are multiple, and most people don’t really want to know about them. Kids who won’t have food at home. Kids who won’t have heat at home. Kids who won’t have presents at home. Kids who won’t have … you can just fill in the blank. The “unbearable” part is knowing this.

Then there is watching a kid’s face when one of his peers is talking about the several hundred dollar pair of shoes or the latest iPhone on her wish list that he knows is not in his future. The “unbearable” part is seeing this.

There is more to this article, though, than defending my fellow teachers who are just trying to survive these last few weeks. There are ways everyone can help us “survive” and help our local community have a happy holiday.

Encourage your children to donate new, unused or gently used toys. There are many organizations around Wheeling that need present donations this time of year. Help our students learn to be a “Santa” and give to others. Plus, it’ll help them clean out their rooms!

Check with your child’s school to see if they have a food pantry and if they need donations. Many schools will send food home with families to last through the long break. In addition to food, many schools will accept personal hygiene donations as well.

Don’t pass up that local Angel Tree if possible. Some organizations ask for simple requests like gloves, laundry detergent or shampoo.

If you find yourself in need, reach out to your school to see what they offer.

Talk to your kids about compassion. This is the most difficult to do, I know. But talk to your kid (who might be getting that several hundred dollar pair of shoes) about how not everyone has it as lucky. There is a difference between being excited about Santa and bragging about what she will get.

For many, the holiday season is a joyous one. I am lucky enough to say that applies to me and my family. And yes, if you must know, I AM looking forward to having two weeks at home with my own children. However, my students will not be far from my mind. I do what I can to help those I know need it.

Over the next few weeks, my “survival pack” will include a few boxes of food for our pantry at school and a few Angel Tree gifts where we can, but it will also be packed with a warm smile and an understanding heart because I know those will help, too.

Happy holidays, readers.

Adrianne Manning teaches seventh- and eighth-grade reading/language arts at Wheeling Middle School. She is the current Ohio County Teacher of the Year.