As soon as December arrived, the Christmas activity planning went into full swing. Everyone is in full holiday mode—scheduling parties, programs, luncheons, etc. Many are also looking for opportunities to give and spread joy during the season.
One of the first phone calls I received regarding Christmas activities was from a large corporation in our town who does an annual philanthropy project. The majority of employees from this company take money from their paychecks each month to put toward the charitable cause chosen for the year. For the past two years, their project has been to buy gifts for every student in self-contained special education classrooms in our county. That’s six classrooms! And it doesn’t stop there. They spend approximately $100 on each student, buying them things they need, as well as things they want.
What’s really special about this group is that they not only bring the gifts; they also bring pizza, drinks and all the snack trimmings for a Christmas party. The gifts and party are great, but the best part is the employees spend almost two hours getting to know the students, laughing with them and taking tons of pictures. The students love it!
The second Christmas blessing our class received was a holiday carnival hosted by our school’s Student Council club. They planned five stations for the students to move through in groups; club members facilitated each station and interacted with my students continuously. Students could create art, decorate cookies, sing and dance, play games and read books. The event was so well-planned, and my students had an absolute blast.
As is evident, my class has received a great deal of Christmas giving this year. As a teacher, I felt it was my responsibility to teach my students that receiving is great, but being the giver is even better. So, we decided to take on a little Christmas giving project of our own. My class “adopted” a child from the local child abuse prevention center. This entailed picking up a Christmas list for a child, purchasing the needed and wanted items from the list, wrapping the gifts and returning them to the center by a certain date.
We took time to discuss the project and made a shopping list as a class for our five-year-old boy (my students called him Little Boy the entire time since we didn’t have his actual name). I read his list to the class, and then had them decide what things he might need and like. They did an excellent job planning it out!
We also sent home a note to parents about the project; many sent in wrapping paper, money and items from the little boy’s list. The students went shopping in small groups over three days to gather all the items on the list. They also made gift tags and wrapped the presents. It was so encouraging to hear my students ask me first thing the morning after the presents were due back to the center if I had dropped off Little Boy’s gifts.
In addition to our giving project, my students made gifts as a way of showing appreciation for the gifts we received. They made Christmas tree door hangers for the employees who hosted the class party and brought gifts. The hangers are complete with hand-decorated ornaments, handmade paper chains, wrapping paper and shiny bows. We are also working on a poster-board stocking for the Student Council, which will have each student’s signature and a big “thank you” written on it.
This Christmas, my students have taught me a lesson. The enthusiasm they have shown in preparing gifts for others this Christmas season has reminded me of the true reason for the season: giving sacrificially and joyfully without expecting anything in return. What would I do without my 14 little teachers?!
I would love to hear how your class plans to celebrate the holidays. What fun events do you participate in? How do you teach your students about giving?