Christmas Party in a Mississippi Public School

I have heard more times than I can count this week, "Christmas is killing me!" and "I just need to make it through this holiday!" It is hectic, and busy, and a bit exhausting.

In the midst of this last week before winter break, I volunteered to help with Max's fourth grade holiday party at school. As a former teacher who burned out after only five years, I am so thankful for the teachers who "get" how to do it well. Max has one of those teachers this year. In fact, we have had exceptional experiences with teachers more often than not with all three kids, despite the fact that we send our kids to public school in Mississippi.

I walked in at 8am, expecting to survive this hour-long madness, and the kids were in groups of three or four working on a science packet on the floor. The autistic kid rushed in, turned on his radio, and started to dance in his corner. A child in a wheelchair rolled in a few minutes later. One girl was late because she just had surgery. The boy who draws all day long walked in and said, "You look beautiful!" to Ms. Day, because in the midst of teaching 22 kids, including at least five with special needs, she wore a dress covered in stick-on Christmas bows and tinsel. 

We decorated cookies. For the amount of sugar on the tables the kids stayed calm and focussed. This class ranges from mine, the child of a physician, to university kids, to kids wearing clothes that need to be washed. One of the things Max likes about this year is that, despite their differences, Ms. Day makes sure they all know they are a family. They are. Every kid has a role. One writes names on the bags, another helps with the wheel chair, another reads instructions, another carries the epipen bag for the girl with severe allergies. And, they get along - black, white, international, special needs, smart, hyper, sweet, and angry. Under good leadership, the kids make it work.

I knew Max was having a good year, but I have tried to give him the space he needs as he gets older. I was floored. In the middle of a state who always falls to the bottom of funding and performance in education, in the middle of a school where the pressure for teachers to raise test scores is intense, in the middle of an educational system where we are trying to squeeze blood out of turnips, I found a peaceful holiday celebration led by a teacher wrapped in bows.

P.S. Ms. Day also kicks the crud out of Common Core!

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