Letter From Teacher Marty – December 2018

Dear MPS Families,

When we return from the Thanksgiving Holiday, we have 3 weeks in the classroom together until our 2 week long winter break.  I have no idea why but this year seems to be flying by. While we have lots to do together over the next weeks, I am really looking forward to an extended break to catch up on home projects, spend some time with family and to just plain take a break from the day to day rush.

I know school breaks can be a little stressful for families with young children as the change in routine can be disorienting.  I hope you were able to attend our last General Meeting and heard the marvelous Lynn Collins speak on tips to help keep your holidays meaningful for you and your families.  It is always a good idea to think about why we do the things we do, is it important to you and your family – or are you acting out perceived social expectations? Reclaiming our holiday celebrations is a powerful thing to do and spending time thinking about what is most important helps start that process off.  

Also remember that young children can get so hyped up and stressed by the trappings of the big, commercial version of holidays.  The sensory overload can be massive: lights, music, shiny and glittery things, all matter of treats and temptations placed directly at a child’s eye level in stores.  Really hard to not get ‘twitterpated!” So slowing down the pace of your celebrations is great for kids and finding child friendly ways to engage with the world is always a goal.

During December, I send a “homework” project home with the Pre-K students, but the subject is worth considering for all of our families.  There are many winter holidays celebrated around the world, and many different holidays celebrated within our own community. And the ways a shared holiday is celebrated is often different for each family.

I give the Pre-K kiddos a book titled Winter at My House.  Pre-school aged children need help to understand what their family culture and traditions are and holidays are a great way to begin that exploration.  The book is meant to promote family conversation. Each page has a different prompt that the kids complete with their parents and includes a place to draw pictures to depict their respective celebrations.  Prompts include things like: “Many families celebrate special holidays in the winter, at my house we celebrate __________”; “Many families use lights to celebrate their holidays. At my house we use lights to celebrate ____________”.  There are similar prompts that address foods, music, extra special traditions and one that asks the family to think and learn about where their family traditions come from.

My goal for this project is for the kids to come to the realization that not everyone celebrates the same holiday or in the same way – there are many ways of being in this world and all of them are valid and to be respected and honored.  I developed this project to relate to Goal 2 of Anti-Bias Education: Each child will express comfort and joy with human diversity; accurate language for human differences; and deep, caring human connections.

While I focus more deeply on this project with the older students, I would encourage each of you to find ways to open this conversations at home and to help your child come to understand their own culture (Goal 1) and to explore the many differences that make our world special.

In the classroom, not much will change this month.  I do not bring in traditional holiday decorations or themed projects out of respect for both the children’s need for a place of respite from the commercial and often frenetic aspects of December holidays, and because I do not assume we share the same celebrations and no one celebration is more important than any other.

This being said however, I do ALWAYS invite families to bring in aspects of their culture and traditions to the classroom to share with their class.  If you have a tradition that is super important in your family that you would like to share, let me know and I will work with you to make space for that to happen.  It might be food related, it might be a song, or a project. If it is coming from our families and students, it has the greatest meaning of all. I just ask that you and your child be prepared to talk about your project sharing information about where it comes from and why it is important to you.  Many years ago when my son was at MPS, he and I learned all about St. Lucia Day and celebrations because a family shared their family tradition with us. My son and I both remember that as something fun and rather touching, that we had previously never heard of.

And remember that winter extends beyond December so open your minds when you do think about your traditions and celebrations.

I do offer the children some simple projects during the month that will be sent home to share with their families before the break.  As always, it is by invitation and if a child chooses not to participate, it doesn’t mean they don’t love you, just that those blocks were so much more exciting to them on that day.

Our food drive and cash collection to buy warm outerwear to share with families who need some help continue through this month.  Pre-k will go shopping for coats on Monday, December 10th so all cash contributions need to be in by noon on the 10th.

To close our time together before the break, we are planning a field trip/field day for Thursday, December 13 for the 3’s and Pre-K classes and Friday December 14th for the 4’s class.  We will be hiking at Tualatin Hills Nature Park (15655 SW Milikan Way, Beaverton). Morning classes please plan to meet outside the Visitor’s Center at 9:15 am. Pick up will be at 11:30am.  Pre-K meet at 1:15pm with pick up at 3:30pm. Families are encouraged to join us on this walk through the winter woods. There are a combination of paved and soft surface trails and it is very important that everyone dresses for the weather in order to be comfortable and able to really enjoy the experience.  Children should bring their own snack and water on this hike as we will likely just sit down and take a break in the woods when we are tired and hungry. Children should be able to carry their own snack/water, preferably in a small backpack.

That sums it up for the moment.  My hope for you this month is that you find moments to slow down and see the holiday that your family celebrates through the eyes of the young child.  Magic is still alive in their hearts and imaginations and even the simplest things can be so very special, especially if they are done together.

Be well and enjoy a mindful holiday season.

Much love now and always,

Teacher Marty