Posted in School governance, School Leadership, Teaching

Calming Christmas Season

Since we’re still in the mist of the Christmas season (Catholics and Orthodox have a long Christmas season; all that stuff before the day of is Advent, not Christmas), it’s not too late to tell you how our Christmas went this year at school.

For this to make sense, you first have to know what last year was like.

My last-year principal insisted on a few things:

  1. The most important thing in the world was the Christmas show.
  2. Parents expected it, and it had better be perfect.
  3. This was her big marketing piece for the year.

Clearly this made no sense to me because

  1. Isn’t, you know, preparing for Jesus coming the most important thing right now?
  2. Aren’t parents busy trying to make Christmas perfect and in panic mode, and doesn’t this show add one more thing to that?
  3. Doesn’t marketing imply at least some people coming will, you know, not already have bought the product?

However, what did I know?

So last year, we had this ridiculous schedule from December 1 on where we were supposed to focus on reading and math only, and if there was time, throw in the other subjects.  Once in a while, she’d remember that we’re a Catholic school, so religion was probably important.

The thing that took up most of my kids’ times was singing this Christmas show that no one seemed to actually like.

Amusingly, my kids then, and now, like performing.  Some actually thrive with it.  But others had significant social anxiety.  At least one student looked like she might lose her lunch every day.   Every day.  And we made her keep doing it.

No one cared what was best for any of the kids, and add to this drama that Christmas was coming and the schedule was all wacky and you can imagine what they were like in the classroom.

My older kids, around 10 and up, were getting mindful enough to realize what they really wanted was normalcy.  They wanted any time spent in the classroom to be doing typical school stuff and please, let’s just rest and do those things.

My 9-year-olds bounced off the walls.

It was a very long month.

Fast-forward to this year.

This year, I didn’t schedule a pageant or concert.  Instead, we did our normal schedules, but added to it longer prayers for Advent, and talk about the Advent wreath.  We talked about how Jesus was coming.  We staggered the arrival of Christmas “things.”  First, the advent wreath, then a small crèche, then the big crèche, just before break.

We had a party, too.  I invited the parents to dinner, and the kids showed off their art and we just talked as real humans, and then we had a meeting about the future direction of the school.

We were a family.

The kids were silly, but not in a “we’re exhausted” way, but more in a “we’re kids having fun” way.

The last day of school before break, we had Mass and Confession, and they did a little math, reading, and social studies, and finished anything they hadn’t yet finished, academically, before break.  They had an extra-long gym class at the end of the day, and played together.

Everyone was calm.

I learned a lot about Christmas this year, and how Advent can be about preparing for Jesus’ coming in a quiet way or an over-the-top way.  Given that most schools do big productions in December, I think our lack of big show would have disappointed some parents.

My parents kept asking me at that meeting when we were going to have a high school.


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