The Kids Who Hate Christmas

Dec 01, 2023

I was once teaching this time of year when I noticed a student named Tony was acting really down and angry. He also wasn't doing any classwork, so I said to him, "Tony, in 2 weeks you get a nice break from school, and if you can just hang on for two more weeks, you can go on Christmas break."

And Tony just gave me a cold smirk, and said, “Dude, I hate Christmas.”

Well I naïvely responded, “What do you mean you hate Christmas? Nobody hates Christmas!” And he looked me right in the eyes and said, “Yeah, easy for you to say. I don't get gifts or do anything. I just sit at home while my mom gets drunk and passes out on the couch.”

Why Some Kids Hate the Holidays

I can’t relate to this. My childhood wasn’t always perfect, but I always loved Christmas. And I especially loved a 2 week break from school. So Tony’s words rocked me to my core. It explained a lot about why he was acting the way he was. For kids like him, no school means no regular meals. No daily contact with teachers who love and care about them. And if you live where I live, often no warm air for 2 weeks.

So when the last day before holiday break came, my heart was broken for this kid as I saw how much he was affected by the thought of leaving school for two weeks. Here’s the reality my educator friends, you are English teachers, or math, or science, or history, or gym teachers. Counselors, parapros, administrators-

Many Students Rely on the Stability of School

But you are also more than that. To many students, you are a big part of their home. You embody caring, wisdom, generosity, stability, and love to them. Sometimes in all of the busyness and pressure and systematic qualities of education, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that our students are children. They need nurturing. And many of them rely on the nurturing they receive in school.

So it makes sense why students who may not experience those qualities outside of school feel anxiety as a break approaches. And it also explains some negative behavior we see in the weeks leading up to the holiday. Tony acting out—not turning in work, out of his seat, his attitude with me.

The Unseen Stories of Our Students

There is probably a student in your classroom right now who feels utterly alone. They might act like they have it all together, and to the students around them it might seem that way- putting on a smile, completing their work, going through the motions, but as a teacher you hear parts of the story that other students don’t hear.

You know that some of your kids only get food when they come to school. And on nights and weekends, they go hungry. You’ve driven by those students’ houses that don’t have heat, or windows, or floors. You were told by the school social worker which of your students are in foster care. You’ve had parents call you and tell you what’s going on at home and how they’re struggling to keep it all together, and you only have the power to listen.

You’ve got students who are acting crazy right now in class because they are not looking forward to Christmas Break, not looking forward to a couple weeks away from regular food, heat, and structure, and you.

You’ve got kids in your class who feel very alone right now.

Thank You Educators Who Care For Their Students

So let me say this: Thank you for being in those students’ lives.

Thank you for not just teaching the subject matter, even though that’s usually all you get evaluated for. Thank you for keeping granola bars in your desk. Thanks for listening to those parents during your planning time even though you have papers to grade. Thanks for stopping in the hallway so a kid can pour their heart out to you, or for just giving them high fives. Thank you for being intentional about creating an atmosphere in your classroom that students feel cared for and safe in.

This wasn’t in the job description- building and leading a community. They didn’t teach you how to deal with this stuff in teacher-college. This isn’t what is prescribed by the Common Core or assessed on the SAT. Yet it is a part of your job, and one of the most difficult aspects of it.

But also one of the most important. The fact is, kids who feel they are a part of a community, a place they get to contribute, are listened to, are valued- generally will do better academically, mentally, and socially, regardless of the circumstances that they come from. This is something that you help give them by being that constant presence in their lives every day.

By greeting them at the door. By asking how they’re really doing. By creating activities that have them interacting with others, pulling them out of isolation.

You are having an impact in ways far more than you know.

So know this. Let it sink in. Remind yourself of the powerful work being done in your classroom. Know that the impact of that work is sometimes hard to measure or even to realize. But I promise you, if you are caring for your students, and making your classroom a community for them, you are having an impact. 

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for the work you are doing in your students’ lives. Especially this time of year. 

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