Friday, June 1, 2012

Father's Day in the Classroom?

As a child growing up, I dreaded the years when we were still in school for Father's Day because I did not have a father.  As an only child, growing up with a single mother and living with my grandparents, I accepted the fact that I did not have a father in my life, but my classmates did not.  Every Father's Day, I always made my grandfather, Papa Joe, a handmade coupon book card and in my eyes he was better than any father could ever be! However, in school when my teachers dedicated class time to make gifts for Father's Day, I was teased, questioned, and talked about by my peers as I made a card for my grandfather instead of my father.  They repeatedly asked: "Why don't you have a father? Where's your father? Everyone has a father, so where is yours? Why aren't you making that for your father instead?  These questions were difficult for me to answer for many reasons: it was an emotional topic for me, I truly didn't understand why my father wasn't a part of my life, and I was hurt that my father didn't want to be a part of my life.  In my eyes and heart, my Papa Joe was my "father" but that wasn't a good enough answer for my classmates. 

When I became a teacher, I made a promise to myself and to all my future students that I will never celebrate Mother's Day or Father's Day in my classroom because we truly don't know what is going on inside our students' homes or what wounds they may carry with them about family members.  Each year, I have students who may have experienced: a parent leaving, a parent passing away, a parent losing parental rights, a parent who chooses not to be a part of their life, and many other situations that I may not even be aware of.  In my eyes, we don't have to remind students of these wounds and cause greater pain for them.  For people who have had the honor of having both parents actively supportive in their lives, this perspective may not have even crossed your minds about Mother's Day or Father's Day in the classroom.  But for someone who lived it, I know what it personally feels like. 

Each year, I teach my students that the best gift to give is a piece of writing so throughout the year they know that they can choose to give a piece of writing to a family member for a holiday, birthday, or just because they love them.  I show my students my box of letters, cards, and writing pieces I wrote for and about my Papa Joe that he saved.  This also helps show them the power writing can have on others and how they can give the gift of writing to anyone at any time. 

As Father's Day approaches this month, please consider this personal perspective as you plan your classroom lessons this year and in the future around these holidays.

Thank you Papa Joe for always being there for me!

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