I have written in the past about how the holidays can be a paradoxical time for many middle schoolers. Many find themselves somewhere between the “magic” of the season and the concept of sacrifice and the joys of gift giving that is the hallmark of seasonal religious traditions from Christmas to Hannukah to Kwanzaa to Ramadan to Yule. Teens and tweens can be a bit self-centered around the holidays. They still think about them as getting gifts, not necessarily about giving them. Marketers, of course, do an incredible job targeting them with the latest, greatest, and most expensive gizmos and gadgets. I think that as adults we should help them understand some of the more important aspects of the holiday season. At home we can do this by spending family time and talking about important family traditions. We can explore the idea of sacrifice by volunteering as a family or through literature or movies. We can foster the idea of renewal by sharing resolutions for the new year.
We have a few traditions in the middle school to help students think outside themselves. First, we just wrapped up our Secret Snowflake giving tradition. After a couple small gifts students wrapped up a “larger” gift to surprise their secret snowflake on Tuesday. The focus of the activity is on the giving, and, because secret snowflakes are drawn randomly, students are often thinking about people in their grade that they may not have thought of as much before. It is a kind of a “random act of kindness” exercise.
Next, when we come back from holiday break we will be taking down our “Thanksgiving Thank-You Turkey Feathers” and putting up a new scene about “Holiday Wishes.” We will ask the students to think about a wish they would like to post that meets only one criterion: it has to be non-commercial (something I will explain that might not be easily bought). The goal, of course, is that combined with our Secret Snowflake gift giving tradition the middle school community takes time to reflect on some timeless themes this holiday season. I will be sure to share some of their responses in my upcoming blogs. Also, I invite you to send me any messages that you would like me to put up on our display. They can be anonymous!
One thing I have learned about middle schoolers over the past sixteen years here at Derryfield is that they only need the opportunity to do great things!
Enjoy the holiday season with your family. Help these amazing middle schoolers count the many blessings they have. My own personal wish this year comes quite appropriately from Charles Dickens’ timeless masterpiece, A Christmas Carol:
“It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.”
May you enjoy the good humor found only among family and friends. And may you find a way to share that gift with others. Happy holidays, everyone!
Located in Manchester, NH, The Derryfield School is a private day school for grades 6-12. Students benefit from a challenging academic program, fine and performing arts, competitive athletics, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.