Oh, the holidays. It's a really fun time to be an elementary school teacher.
And I don't even mean that sarcastically.
Seriously, guys - how many of you with regular jobs out there get to make holiday crafts and read Christmas books at work?
So anyway. I'm not one of those crazy-obsessed-my-entire-month-of-lesson-plans-is-holiday-themed teachers. But today, I decided to read a short Christmas-themed picture book to demonstrate "Reader's Thoughts." That is, we read the book, and every time someone had a thought/question/opinion/epiphany about the book in any way, we stopped and talked about it. I'm trying to get them to think more deeply when they read, so this was our first step.
I chose to read Olive the Other Reindeer, which is a precious book about a dog who thinks she's one of Santa's reindeer. I suggest you give it a look.
Anyway, when discussing what we thought the genre was, my friend - we'll call her Humbug for the sake of this story - says, "Well this book obviously has to be a fantasy because Santa's not real."
Y'all. My heart sunk to my toes.
Literally one of my biggest fears is a child discovering that there's no Santa in my classroom. (When I was about 10 and I found out, I was devastated, and I told a family friend who was a few years younger. To this day I feel it is one of the most shameful things I've ever done.) Children have such a short span of childhood nowadays; I can't get over what my students know about (s-e-x stuff and everything!), watch (Paranormal Activity!), and play (Call of Duty!). The thought of them losing one of the few sources of wonder and magic in the world while in my classroom is horrifying.
And I'm not naive. I know that in the third grade, it's probably half-and-half as far as believers go. However, I am not about to let my non-believers ruin it for the rest. So after Humbug came out with that, there was fortunately a backlash of, *gasp* YES HE IS! followed by a reply from several kids of NO HE'S NOT! My blood pressure rose steadily after a few back and forths until I could finally get their attention.
I ended the discussion with the following: "Ahem. For your information, I believe very deeply in Santa Claus, and I hope you all do too. Because you know, you run the risk of no presents if you choose not to believe." That seemed to end the discussion definitively.
Oh! But I forgot! HIGHLIGHT of the discussion. One little boy - who is in fact very into his church, so I know his family is very Christian - said that he did not like Santa Claus. (Side note: WHAT?!?) Another kid replied, "You don't like Santa? So you don't like Christmas? You're Jewish!" And he kept telling the child (who is African-American, in fact) that he was Jewish. Apparently the only part of our "Let's talk about all the December holidays" discussion he remembered was that Jewish people don't celebrate Christmas. To him this translated to all people who don't like Christmas are Jewish. We had an interesting chat in the hallway.
Anyway, the point of my story is this: I went through my teenage period where I was annoyed that I had to pretend to believe in Santa because my baby brother is almost 12 years younger than I am. I rolled my eyes and was all, "ugh. How long am I going to have to put up with this?" I swear, in hindsight I don't know how my mother didn't either slap me or give me coal in my stocking.
Now that I've seen much more clearly how fast these kids are expected to grow up, it's clear to me that kids need Santa.
Oh -- and don't be this teacher.