We’re happy to have guest blogger Alison Cupp Relyea back again to get a conversation started about the potential pitfalls of Valentine’s Day, and how we as educators and parents can help children celebrate it. Knowing that many teachers and schools aim to use Valentine’s Day as a way to create connection and discuss diversity, we invite you to share your Valentine’s Day philosophies, lessons, and resources. We teach best when we learn from each other. We look forward to hearing from you!
Valentine’s Day is approaching, and teachers everywhere are dreading the chaos, pink and red decorations, and materialism associated with the day. When I was a second grade teacher, we struggled to find a way to celebrate Valentine’s Day that was satisfying for the students and felt connected to the larger classroom community of inclusion that we were trying to build. We talked at grade level, we strategized at faculty meetings, and we spent a lot of time discussing the goals and restrictions for this mid-February holiday.
At the beginning of my teaching career, Valentine’s Day looked much like it had when I was a child, with teachers writing valentines for each of the students in their class, and students bringing in bags of small paper valentines to exchange. The rules were clear: bring a valentine for everyone. In twenty minutes of chaos, the children distributed their valentines and collected the ones with their names on them–it was generally a positive experience. What’s not to like? Just ask an elementary teacher and you’ll get an earful.
The candy is an issue, of course. Some children have allergies, others have braces, and teachers tend to believe that children do not need candy in the middle of the school day to have a good time. My colleagues and I ruled out candy quickly, and surprisingly, it was usually the parents who pushed back. Then there was the equality of the valentines themselves. Bringing one for everyone seemed like a good solution, but there were still feelings of favoritism. A favorite Pokemon character, a different sized valentine, or a special note that went to one child but not another. These were all problems that could be resolved, but really, was a Valentine’s Day celebration necessary? Did it have any meaning?
As a school, we looked for other ways to talk about love on Valentine’s Day for children of all ages, and with well-chosen picture books, we often sparked some deep discussions. For a creative and historically significant way to learn about Valentine’s Day, see Jennifer Bryan’s article and resources from Valentine’s Day 2015. And to hear what children themselves have to say about Love and Valentine’s Day, enjoy this clip from The Jubilee Project.
If you are a teacher, why not consider showing the “Love Has No Labels” video from The Ad Council? This is guaranteed to inspire a valuable conversation with all who watch it together.