You can’t have a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.
Science tells us that there is evidence of miracles all around us. This season look no further than your own classroom to see generosity and kindness within your students.
Each year my district participates in the Salvation Army Angel Giving Tree Program. With this program, the Salvation Army puts up trees full of “ornaments” describing the Christmas wishes of area students in need. I always choose one or two tags myself, and rush to make their dreams come true, treating each child as if they were my own. This year I decided to use this as a local community service activity for my National Honor Society. As an advisor for this prestigious group, I hope that their actions will inspire those around them. It is not often that they inspire me, too, but this year I was truly moved to tears.
Since we have over 40 members, I asked that each student bring in a dollar that would go towards purchasing gifts for the two students we selected: an 18-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl. The students were then asked to wrap the presents with me after school. To my surprise, one of my students took it upon himself to use well over $200 of his own money to buy the 18-year-old boy presents. I was so shocked I didn’t know what to say. When I asked him what made him decide to do that, he replied, “I have such wonderful parents and such a great life. I just want someone else to feel like I do, even if it’s for one day.” With tears streaming down my face, I thanked him for his generosity.
In addition, two of my newest inductees spent a weekend at the mall carefully locating the young girl's wish list items. They also went above and beyond by creating a stocking full of goodies for her. “We felt so awesome when we were buying everything that we couldn’t stop! I wish we could see her face when she opens the presents!” they exclaimed. Finally, several of my own 7th and 8th grade students donated a dollar to the cause, a touching gesture considering the fact that many of them are in great financial straits at home. These gestures renewed my belief that miracles can happen around any corner, and oftentimes within our own schools.
There are many ways that we can encourage small miracles within our classrooms. This year I decided to create an “Advent Calendar of Good Deeds” on my back bulletin board. In an effort to “go green,” we used old folders to create the ornaments, and a stack of googly eye packets served as additional adornment. I placed the dates until vacation on the front, and on the back of each ornament, students wrote either a fun holiday activity or a good deed to do that day. To my amazement, most chose to write down a random act of kindness. Since the tree is the first thing you see when you enter my room, you can’t help but feel good as you walk inside.
If you’re looking for the perfect curriculum tie-in, look no farther than the classic tale “The Gift of the Magi.” Scholastic’s Scope magazine has a great "The Gift of the Magi" unit that's a terrific fit for middle school students. It includes a PowerPoint on situational irony, vocabulary, a readers theater play, a comprehension quiz, and analysis. My culminating activity offers students the following writing prompt: “What truly makes a great gift? Think about your possessions. What is the one thing you own that you would never want to give up? Is there anything or anyone you might give it up for?” This usually silences my normally chatty bunch as they ponder the question.
As I sat last night surrounded by an endless array of expensive and high-tech presents, all beautifully hand wrapped, I was overwhelmed by how lucky I am to be able to provide my son with a wonderful Christmas, and by the magnitude of the human spirit . . . evident in people of all ages.
Looking for great gifts that give back? These suggestions from Real Simple magazine are sure to please!