Valentine's Day is the perfect time to discuss emotional wellness and student self-care.
Traditionally the emphasis was on card and gift giving, whereas now we often tend to promote love and kindness on Valentine's Day. Discussing the different types of love, whether for our parents, neighbours or fellow classmates, allows students to think about the huge concept of love and what it means to them. This provides the perfect opportunity to delve into greetings, giving and gifting.
Morning meetings in the classroom often include a greeting and this can take many forms, including a "Good Morning," a wave or a handshake.
Often the greetings and responses need to be taught and modelled to help students understand the cues and expectations. Modelling helps students understand how to use eye contact and pressure in a handshake, voice intonation in a verbal greeting and facial expression in a wave.
Where I grew up in Northern Ireland, Valentine's Day was not celebrated, unless in a romantic relationship. As a teenager, it was awkward and to be avoided. As an adult, it was somewhat similar. When I moved to Canada and had my first child, I discovered that Valentine's here is about showing love to everyone, a celebration that I really enjoy participating in.
Taking time to recognize everyone in a daycare room or classroom helps children understand that although they may not be best friends with everyone, they can give everyone respect. Just as greeting everyone is a way to show respect, giving cards is a similar way to acknowledge respect.
While many of our students do not make cards, the act of writing a name on a purchased card offers a wonderfully authentic writing experience.
Some students may be new to Canada or new to the experience of giving cards, so a communication home to explain our Valentine's Day customs can help clarify expectations to parents. Another suggestion is to give students an opportunity to write/make cards in class and then everything is done in school, relieving the pressure to complete cards at home.
Gifting can also be part of Valentine's celebrations and we often make something with students that they can take home and gift to family or friends. This is a wonderful way to demonstrate and focus on the joy of giving.
In the past, we have made Heart Crayons from that box of old crayons you have lurking in a dark corner. As a collaborative effort, this could be achieved by a class quite easily and gifted to a friend or younger sibling.
Having a class party is another way to show love, for food, dancing and fun!
Tips as an educator
- Be clear about expectations for giving Valentine's cards/gifts and communicate to students and parents
- Allow opportunities to talk about Valentine's day and what it means to each child
- Encourage children to make Valentine's cards/gifts for special family members in their lives
- Emphasize the message rather than the material focus that is often placed on Valentine's Day
- Have fun and celebrate love in all its forms
Written by Chris, an elementary and middle school teacher in Pembina Trails School Division.