Sunday, January 30, 2011

First Guest Blogger: @Havalah's V-Day Drama

If you follow kinderchat member @Havalah, you have perhaps read between the lines of her tweets recently, and known that she has had some conflicts with two students' parents regarding her Valentine's Day plans. Havalah asked me to share her classroom policy on Valentine's Day with all of you, to get your thoughts and feedback. 

Some important background details:

Havalah works at a public school in Massachusetts, serving a culturally and economically diverse group of children. Her school building is an all-kindergarten school, with 7 classes total. Her district has specific policies regarding social justice and cultural sensitivity in the classroom, although there is some variation in how different teachers interpret those policies (**see addendum below for more on this). The paragraph below was printed in her weekly classroom newsletter a few weeks ago:

Important note about Valentines/Valentine's Day: We will not be having a party or passing out individual Valentine's Day cards. We spend the year talking about being friendly, kind, loving and gentle. I do not expect everyone in the class to be friends but I do expect them to be friendly, helpful and kind to each other and themselves. This is something that I think (and tell the children) that we all strive for every day in our daily lives and it is a constant process, building relationships in all sorts of ways. I want them to be mindful of this process each and *every* day. We do however, take this opportunity to honor and value your child's relationship with YOU! You are most certainly their Valentine-- you are their friend and their strongest supporter. We will be making special crafts to celebrate the love and peace of the day. This year Valentine's Day is arriving in the midst of the 100th Day of Kindergarten, a special whole school science event and with the coming of more snow it will all feel very rushed. Please do take time to feel the love and special bond that you have with your child on these cold, cold winter days.
Thank you as always for all that you do to support your child's education

Havalah has a full slate of crafts and fun activities planned for her class during the week of Valentine's Day, and her students will make a variety of small gifts and cards to bring home to their families. What do you all think? What are your plans for Valentine's Day in your classroom?

Huge thanks to Havalah for sharing her policy, and becoming our first guest contributor. I know I can trust you all to be positive, constructive, and kind in your comments.

Happy Sunday!

Addendum, sent in by Havalah this afternoon: 

**Hi =) It's me, Havalah. Just to clarify a teeny bit- unfortunately there aren't really any policies in the district regarding cultural sensitivity/social justice. I've been in this district 6 years and while there is apparently a policy about December holidays I don't know if it truly exists on paper. I *do* know in conversations that I've had with the Interim Superintendent that he sees our district as being 20 years behind in:
 a)having conversations about culture/tradition/holiday/social justice 
b)policy surrounding it.

My goal in the classroom is to be *inclusive* and *supportive* of all children. This is one way throughout the year that I do so. This is also the first time in the years that I've implemented this policy that anyone has either taken it up with me or gone to admin. with a complaint about it. I know that in other rooms in the building on V'Day kids will be left out- either their parents will not have the time/money, inclination to buy valentines, they'll invariably be left off a list and so on. I do not want this to be the case in my classroom, therefore, this is my way of trying to prevent it from happening. It goes back to making an inclusive space for my class kids each and every day, holiday or not. I *am* trying to be a change agent; in my classroom, in my school and in my district. I teach Kindergarten for many reasons. Not because the kids/content/activities are cute, or the traditions make me feel warm and fuzzy. I teach because I want to help children become thoughtful, kind, responsible and aware of the world around them- the similarities and the differences. I can do that by incorporating some aspects that we as the older generation are used to and by changing others. If it means that the whole of the class will feel included, safe, loved and respected by me doing so, then those are choices that I am willing to make.


  1. I love this " I teach because I want to help children become thoughtful, kind, responsible and aware of the world around them- the similarities and the differences."
    I think it's great that you're opting out of Valentine's day exchanges this year. I work in an independent school in CT (for ages 3-8) and we don't have holiday celebrations as a part of our curriculum or included in the calendar. While we value hearing about traditions from home, we feel that how people celebrate is very personal and is best done outside of school. This frees the teachers from trying to include everything and making assumptions about what students celebrate based on external factors. A result is that school as a holiday-free zone has become a refuge for the students, and both parents and teachers appreciate it.

  2. Havalah ~

    I can appreciate and understand the position you've taken. I've seen it from both perspectives as an educator. It's good that you clearly stated your reasons in a newsletter to your parents. I teach at a public school that traditionally has celebrated the day (and most holidays) with Valentine cards, carriers, parties, and the like. For the most part, parents at my school in particular tend to go with the flow and have enjoyed the activities that go along with them. We certainly honor and make accommodations for families that, for whatever reason, choose not to celebrate. That is the case on occasion.

    I think we, as educators have, that freedom and it creates such wonderful diversity in the ways that we learn. I concur, and teach many of those character traits. Coming from Hawaii, a state that is uniquely rich with cultural diversity, I personally enjoy teaching about the various holiday celebrations. While families each celebrate in their own personal ways - there is richness in bringing that, and other things into the learning environment.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. Havalah,

    It is just like you to consider the needs of all children, and to be inclusive and supportive of all of them:

    "I teach because I want to help children become thoughtful, kind, responsible and aware of the world around them- the similarities and the differences."

    Many schools are moving away from doing classroom-based celebrations for the very reasons you mentioned.

    Keep calm and carry on!

    Wendy @Kidlutions

  4. Hooray to you Havalah for having the courage to stick to your guns and do what is best for your kids. Good for you!

  5. Havalah, this is such a brilliant example of thoughtful re-examination of what happens in the classroom. Your perspective on Valentine's Day sums up so many admirable qualities of your character as a teacher.

    l love how you teach them about being kind and respectful while recognizing the reality that they will not be friends with everyone they meet. What a vital lesson to learn as they make their way in the world.

    I also admire your recognition of the difficulties some children would have with even getting together 25 valentines and how really devastating that could be for a child - and how stressful for a parent who is struggling already.

    Teaching "big ideas" to young people, re-thinking even the most engrained traditions, and being aware of the needs and comfort level of *every* child to make sure your classroom is inclusive are extraordinary skills you bring to your children every day.

    They are lucky children to have you...

  6. Havalah,

    I agree with you 100%. I wish I was able to do this at my school. I don't mind teaching about Valentine's Day or making a craft to take home, but I am not a fan of having a big party and passing out the cards. Students tend to forget the message and meaning of the day, they want to focus on what they did or did not get and what candy they can eat.
    "We spend the year talking about being friendly, kind, loving and gentle." I think that is what is important.