Friday, December 21, 2007

Gifts for Angels, Hot Cocoa, and Horns!

It's actually been, amazingly, a pretty good week. Perhaps it was because the kids, for whatever reason, lost their minds last week. When The Principal tells you that it's been the sort of week where she wanted to toss her purse up on her arm and walk out the building, you know it's a bad week. In between the 13 eighth grade girls who got busted with slam books (the contents of which were described as "disgusting beyond belief"), the bipolar student who threatened suicide and attempted to run away, and the chaos of the holidays and basketball season, it was a doozy. Which is why this week, which was oddly calm, was so nice.

A few weeks ago my third period (which is also my advisory class), decided that they wanted to adopt one of our angel families. Angel families are the families that we help out at the holidays with Christmas gifts and food; they all have at least one member of the family that attends our school. Every year the student council, various clubs, the PTO, the faculty and staff, local churches and other groups put together Christmas for well over 100 families. It is quite an undertaking, but the amount of good that it does for the community is beyond measure. In any case, I was talking up the canned food drive when some of the kids said they wanted to bring in cans but they really wanted to have a family to shop for. We had a pretty serious discussion about commitment, (I wasn't going to get stuck holding the bag, in other words), and they voted and decided they really wanted to do it.

To say I was impressed with these kids is an understatement.

I went to guidance and got our family, which had three boys, ages 7, 10 and 14. We knew their first names, sizes, and wishes. I sent out a letter to the parents to let them know what the kids were doing, and stressing that even a single dollar would be welcome. (I had noticed that at least two of my students in that class were actually members of Angel Families themselves.) The toys, clothes, and gift cards began to arrive and this week we spent two days wrapping them all up. I couldn't believe it! We had over 30 packages for our family! It was amazing! The kids, who can't wrap much better than I can, had a blast, and we all trooped over to guidance to deliver our packages. It was nice to hear the kids' conversations this week as they talked about buying presents for other people, and not just conversations about what they wanted. We had a fun discussion on how good it feels to do something for other people, and many of them agreed that they tended to be a bit selfish. They did good.

We had pizza and a movie for the Military Support Group this week where, in addition to pizza, we offered a shoulder to one girl whose boyfriend had broken up with her that day. I loved seeing these kids, who all have a parent deployed, rally around her and help boost her up and get over the sobbing. Halfway through the afternoon she was giggling, eating pizza, and playing with a Rubik's cube. Mamma's Girl was there, and was beaming as she'd heard from mom earlier that week. Another girl got a wake up call that morning and it was her Daddy who she hadn't heard from in three months. She said it was the best day ever and the pizza was just icing on the cake!

The Christmas Store was open again this year although it may be the last year. Our very active PTO mothers are moving on to High School this next fall and there doesn't appear to be any go-getters to fill their shoes. Stocking the Christmas Store is a lot of work and requires a lot of manpower (to go to the clearance sales and buy the stuff at dirt low prices, wrap it up so it looks nice, and to man the store), plus storage. It's such a great thing for the kids, however, and many of them would come up to me with a dollar in their hand and ask permission to go to the Christmas store. Talk about empowering.

Today was a half day which can be hell on earth. It was, however, the nicest day before break we've ever had. For one, we had a lot of kids absent. I think because Christmas is during the beginning of the week, rather than the end, that many people headed out of town early. Usually we have a few absent, but today we had a lot. I think maybe ten kids showed up in my homeroom (then again, I have one suspended, one in alternative school, and one in the hospital).

After a locker clean out, the annual student/teacher volleyball game was held and I had volunteered to watch the kids who didn't get to go (admission is two canned food items for the canned food drive). I had color pages, suduko puzzles, and crosswords ready to go. They came in, sat down, colored, listened to Christmas music and were so well-behaved (surprising considering some of the characters that were there) that I was able to get all their tests graded from the day before (and they did well!)

Earlier in the week we had the kids sign up for what they wanted to do during the half day - they had a choice of game room, or three movies. The kids fixed a plate of food (many had brought in bags of chips and cookies) and went to their assigned room. They did great. They were well behaved, didn't spill anything, and weren't running around being pills. I had bought hot chocolate mix the other night (on sale for a dollar!) and made some using the microwave in my room (we had some team money to use up or lose so we bought a frig and microwave; it's in my room so we can use the excuse that I need it for science labs). The kids loved the hot chocolate and sat and watched Shrek 2 (they sang along to the songs and actually recited all the dialog which was a bit cute and freaky at the same time).

Then at the magic hour, 10:45, the bus riders were dismissed and those of us who had walkers in our rooms headed out to wave the buses goodbye. Waving the buses goodbye takes place two times a year - before Christmas break and the last day of school. It is one of my favorite traditions, and we got to introduce it to our new teachers this year. Mrs. Language loved it - she had never seen anything like it. It really is the buses start to roll out (pretty impressive anyway, considering how many roll by), the drivers lay on the horns and the kids wave at those of us along the sidewalk who are waving back at them and yelling! It's a great way to end the first semester.

And now...two weeks of rest and relaxation!


ms. whatsit said...

I wish you had been my teacher when I was a kid. It's tough having a parent in the military.

Enjoy your break.

Perhaps you can play this game of tag when you get back.

nbosch said...

It sounds like you had some nice days--we combined two classes and went on a fieldtrip and to a local BBQ eatery in lieu of holiday parties and had a great time. This can be a good time of the year. Merry Christmas. N.