Well, what do you know? We’re rolling into December and I have not once had to don my haute couture Christmas tree sweatshirt with the blinking lights or my glowing ornament earrings. I’ve got no headache inducing reindeer antler headband sprouting from my head. I haven’t wrapped tinsel around my throat as a necklace one single time.
Yes, this month I’ve been wearing jeans and sweaters that lack noses that glow.
Unemployment has turned this former teacher into a real fashionista. Because I think we all know that to be a truly effective elementary school educator during the month of December, you sometimes just have to go with the tacky-holiday-attire-flow. Whether it’s a high end dreidl emblazoned sweatshirt, the luxury boutique requisite Santa hat, or even just some cutsie snowman earrings, being a teacher means throwing fashion out the window and embracing your inner geek..er… child.
Being unemployed during December also means no mugs, no mani/pedi gift cards, no scented votives, and no holiday tea towels. I’m ok with that though; teaching certainly isn’t about getting gifts, and admittedly I already do have enough “Warm Apple Crisp” and “Freshly Hung Linen” scented candles to take me into my golden years. Still, I have to confess what I’ll really miss are those made-with-love ornaments given to me by my students. Now those are really something special.
Each December as I pull my ornaments from storage and begin to decorate my Christmas tree, I am reminded of the wonderful little people who have had such an impact on my life. Even after twenty years, I remember who gave me each ornament, and I reflect briefly on what made that child special. About ¾ of my tree is adorned with ornaments made by or given to me by students. And as I hang them I remember. Always I remember.
I remember Ryan, the smart-as-a-whip, adorable little boy who gave me the grapevine wreath embroidered inside with the words “I love Christmas and Miss Wendy” in 1985. Ryan is 30 years old now and probably has a family of his own. I recall Joey, my little bruiser, a champ at Sight Word Red Rover, who gave me the delicate hand painted, heart shaped glass ornament that I always place gingerly at the very top of my tree. And A.J., with a heart of gold, who gave me that fuzzy little wool lamb.
Decorating my Christmas tree each year is like a walk down memory lane in a career that has afforded me the opportunity to get to know some amazing human beings, who just happened to be under the age of seven.
So this year, though I won’t need to affix that gaudy musical reindeer pin to my red and green sweater, I will still remember the hundreds of students I have been honored to teach every time I place one of those precious ornaments on my tree. Because, while you can take the teacher out of the snowman sweatshirt, you can’t take those fond classroom memories away from the teacher.
What about you? What are some of your fondest or funniest memories of teaching during the holidays?
About the Author
Wendy Cushing has been teaching for 28 years in grades Pre-K-3. She currently teaches 3rd grade in Monroe, Connecticut. In addition to teaching, Wendy enjoys pinning teaching ideas she will never use, party planning, freelance writing, and hanging out with her over 300 lbs. worth of dogs. She is mom to two wonderful daughters, one living in NYC, and the other about to enter 7th grade.