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The Highs (& Lows) of the Holidays in Secondary

Highs and lows of Holidays.png

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Blessed Kwanzaa! It’s the holiday season, a very strange time for most teachers. In elementary, I’m guessing they are making craft ornaments for parents to treasure and learning numbers by gluing cotton balls on Santa’s beard. I’ll bet there’s a lot of glitter happening right now. I mean A LOT. And probably a ton of holiday-themed clothing. The holidays bring as many strange happenings as the beginning of the school year. More on that here. 🙂


In secondary? Not so much.

We are a more dark and twisty bunch (hence the fact that I’m a secondary teacher), and we are more concerned with peeling teenagers off the wall that just got their first gift from their boyfriend or girlfriend. Or the girls have started drama because Sally got everyone a gift EXCEPT Allie (because they are fighting). Or Billy got Susie a teddy bear, but isn’t he talking to Jane?


Whatever they are thinking about, it’s most likely not our classes. And we have no crafts or glitter to distract them. We just have curriculum. And learning. And testing. And data.

Aren’t we a jolly bunch?

Then there are the pictures I see of colleagues in elementary with the MOUNTAIN of gifts from their little treasures. Is that a Coach purse? A $50 gift card to Starbucks? Stationery from Harrod’s?

I’m kidding. Sort of.

As a middle/high school teacher, we don’t get gifts from all our kids because our kids have 6-10 teachers and coaches. If you buy them even a $5 gift card, that’s $30-$50. That’s pricey! My favorite gifts are the small things: a card, a bag of homemade cookies (which I might eat, depending on the kid), a candy cane, or maybe my favorite drink from Starbucks. Anything that makes me know they (or their parents) went out of their way to get me something is a good thing in my book.

My Colleagues Chime In-

One of my 8th grade teammates had this to say:

“‘My child has always done well in X subject before…’ (Yeah, cuz they got to color pictures and use crazy glue… oh yeah, they weren’t strange hormonal monsters then either. 😉

Also, my favorite gift is always a personal note from a student.  I completely understand why we don’t get much and why some parents at least try to get us that $5 gift card or mug.  But I’d rather have a heartfelt note from a student than any of that.  Even the snarky ones I’ve gotten over the years, I still go back & read because I know they were being snarky with me because they felt comfortable and enjoyed having me as a teacher.”
A fellow ELA teacher sent me this gem:
“I alternate between the land of Snarkia and Schmaltzylvania at this time of year.  I think one of our highs is the fact that it’s particularly special when a student does bring us a gift in middle school.  We have a moment of connection, and for some of our students, a moment of great portent when they muster their courage to sidle up to us as inconspicuously as possible, and thrust a small token of appreciation into our hand.   They are acutely vulnerable and hope their humble offering is as significant to us as their offerings of glittery pom-pom-and-popsicle-stick reindeer ornaments were to their primary teachers.  So, I’ll happily raise one of my seventeen “World’s Best Teacher” mugs to the fact that we don’t have to wear a poncho to withstand the onslaught of glue and glitter, and give a toast to the students who take a social risk to show kindness to a teacher. Now that’s a gift!”

So, the takeaway is this: Secondary teachers, be excited that you too don’t have to wear a poncho to avoid glitter and glue. Be proud of that coffee mug and those Hershey’s kisses. Even better, remember why you chose to teach secondary in the first place- no wiping noses, tying shoes, or lining up. You also don’t have to eat lunch with them.

Those are the gifts that keep on giving, right?