So proud of my kiddos, I could burst! My class socioeconomic division is massive. I have homeless students, students who receive free/reduced meals, and kiddos who fly to Vegas for a weekend five or six times a year and holiday regularly in Cabo.
So, instead of allowing the focus of the holiday season to be on the haves and have not’s, I told my 5th graders that we would spend our “Carnival Money” doing good deeds for others. We made nearly $70 at our schools Fall Festival, and we have nearly 500 students in our school. My class did the math (ha! ) and realized it wasn’t a lot, but with some creativity it could work!
My inspiration was a cross between “Random Acts of Kindness” and “Pay it Forward” plus“Secret Santa” with a touch of “Ninja” thrown in (in 5th grade, ninja’s make everything better!).
So each student gets to draw a stick with a classroom name on it. Then it is their responsibility to secretly spy on that class, figure out how many kids are in it and select something nice to do for them.
We started on December 1st…
The first day, my little guy selected a 1st grade class. He was so excited! He wanted to give each firstie a candy cane and a cup of marshmallows because they are gluten free. (This was a big deal to him… he wanted to make sure everyone could eat the treat). He snuck in while they were at Specials and placed a cup and a cane at every desk… and got out before being discovered!
The second day my girlie drew a 3rd grade classroom and she wanted to give them hot chocolate drink after recess, since it has been cold and snowy. So she delivered supplies (cups and spoons) and hot cocoa mix while the class was at lunch.
The third day another young man drew the “other” 5th grade class, so he asked if he could give them one of our copies of the bookSmile by R. Telegemeir, easily one of the most coveted books in OUR class. So, he wrapped it up and left the gift for their teacher to discover.
The fourth day a little gal drew a kindergarten class. At recess she came up to me perplexed about what she wanted to do. She said, “Mrs. Bau, I just don’t think it’s a good idea to give those kinder kids candy canes. All that sugar will make their teacher not happy.” OK, I replied. “And what if they spill the hot chocolate and make a mess or burn themselves with the water, so I don’t want to do that”. OK, I replied again. Then a light bulb came on in her head and she said, “Can we give them stuff to make book marks for their moms? I made one for my mom once when I was little and she still uses it!”
The 5th student to draw a class had a more difficult time with the concept. Though her heart was in the right place, it was a bit tough to sell her on the idea of “less is more”. Being one of the more privileged students, this gal wanted to buy each student in her chosen class a can of soda and bring them all fudge. She said her mom wouldn’t mind and would buy it for her. While I loved her giving spirit, I explained that to be fair, I was the only person who could purchase supplies for our Secret Santa missions, and even though it was very generous of her to want to give everyone soda and fudge, volunteering her mom was against the “rules”. I encouraged her to think about something she could do on her own or with the supplies I have in class. She finally settled on making students an origami “mail box” and decorated them with holiday phrases. She scavenged through my “junk box” and also came up with enough heart-shapes pencil sharpeners (left over from last years class) to give one to each of the seventeen kiddos in that class.
I love this new tradition in my classroom and because of the joy I see in my kiddos faces as they scheme and create to spear kindness and cheer; I don’t even mind the last minute trips to the store!
Michelle Bau is a fifth grade teacher at Prairie Wind Elementary in Gillette, WY.