I have a love-dread relationship with Valentine’s Day as a secondary teacher. On one hand, I’m all about any excuse to celebrate. There’s something so sweet about the little gifts and candy students exchange. I love that almost everyone is in a good mood—a sort of a throwback to the elementary days of class parties. And Valentine’s Day is an excuse to do some of my favorite lesson plans, like having students create valentines from famous literary figures, e.g. “I love you like Lennie loves mice, but I’ll try to not squeeze you to death.”
On the other hand, however, Valentine’s Day in middle school is approximately level 9,000 mega-bonkers.
Of course, not all students are off-the-walls on February 14, and of course, there are many teachers who are far better-equipped to handle chaos than I am … but personally, every time Valentine’s Day rolls through, I find myself so tired at the end of the day I have to stop myself from asking maintenance to roll me to my car in a wheelbarrow. After my first few years of almost being eaten alive by middle schoolers on Valentine’s Day, I’ve gotten pretty good at preparing myself to be surrounded by seemingly rabid, hormones-and-sugar-fueled crazies for eight hours.
First Valentine’s Day as a middle or high school teacher? Here’s a list I’ve compiled to make sure you make it on the other side with your sanity intact.
By this point in the year, the flu and colds have diminished my tissue supply to about zero, but I always check to make sure I’m stocked before Valentine’s Day. Because I have at least one crier every year.
2. A lesson requiring minimal concentration
One year I unintentionally scheduled a long benchmark exam for Valentine’s Day. My students almost collectively discus-threw me out the window and I got terrible scores back, so it was a lose-lose kind of day. Have students do something that isn’t going to skew grades or data too badly, but that they also won’t finish in five minutes and wind up screaming for the remainder of your class.
The hallways always sound like someone took the real-life volume knob and rudely cranked it up to maximum capacity.
5. An extra trash can
Even if you don’t have a party or something resembling it, you’ll need an extra bin for discarded candy/cupcake wrappers, sad wilted carnations with bent stems, empty chocolate boxes, and unclaimed little stuffed gorillas with top hats and heart-print boxers, which I find disturbing on many levels.
6. Valentines for your students, preferably these kitten and puppy with fairy wings temporary tattoo valentines*
Fact: My secondary students get more excited about temporary tattoos than my elementary students. Holographic valentines are also a surprising crowd-pleaser.
7. This adorable video of a bird to distract any student whose Valentine’s Day expectations haven’t been met.
8. An abundance of personal chocolate for mid- or post-trauma
With regard to sugar rushes: If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, but don’t settle for mediocre. Listen to me: Treat yourself. My personal favorite is Cadbury Dairy Milk with Roasted Almonds. Goodbye, world. I’ll see you when I wake up from my sugar coma.
9. A list of things to do after school that are very quiet, low-stress and involve minimal other humans
A good activity: watching Netflix with immediate family. Better: reading a book by yourself in bed under a gigantic down comforter. Best: a sensory-deprivation tank.
What are your thoughts on Valentine’s Day in secondary ed? Share in the comments.
*You may want to ask your principal for permission to give out the temporary tattoos. Or you may want to ask for forgiveness after you’ve already done it.
Love Teach is an elementary and middle school English teacher and blogs about it here. You can also follow her on Facebook or Twitter. Please don’t tell her principal about the temporary tattoos.