In elementary school, it seems that time is measured by the holidays we celebrate each month. The kids spend most of October anxiously anticipating bags stuffed with every candy imaginable, and the days following (much to the horror of teachers) sneaking some of those pieces for breakfast.
We spend December shaking with anticipation of presents under the tree and eight days of gifts that accompany the lighting of the Menorah. February is spent with visions of cupid and hearts dancing in our heads, all the while wondering who will fill our Valentines boxes with cards with affectionate verses.
In November, we are all thinking about gathering with grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, cousins, other family members and friends, and eating until we can eat no more.
As a teacher, I enjoy reaching into the brains of the children to locate any “prior knowledge” that they might have about each holiday we celebrate. These conversations provide opportunities for the kids to speak in front of others, share their family traditions and basically make the teachers smile. (Which, let’s be honest, is a special part of our job.)
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After reading my all-time favorite turkey-day book, “The Night Before Thanksgiving” by Dave Pilkey, tothe class, I asked them what Thanksgiving was really all about. While many shouted, “FOOD!” others enthusiastically raised their hands.
“Well, we are celebrating the day our country came here!”
I looked at Tennison and asked, “What do you mean?”
“There were some people from somewhere who came in a boat over to this land. They saw this big land and said WE WANT THIS COUNTRY! But the native americans said NO! And then some crazies started a great big war! Years later after they won the war they said, ‘Hey we really don’t know each other! Let’s have a meal and get to know each udder.’ And that’s how it started.”
I nodded and smiled as we followed along with his story.
“Now, boys and girls,” I said, “I am making a special Thanksgiving meal this year, but I’m not quite sure how to do it. Can you give me some advice?”
Augustus shot his hand up in the air, and I knew I was in for a treat. “Well, you should get a turkey. But do NOT hack the turkey in your house. The farmer will hack the turkey and then you can get it at the Giant.”
One young lady shouted, “And make sure you shave the fur off the turkey before you cook it!”
Patrick’s eyes lit up, and he added, “And you have to stuff the turkey with potatoes and fruitsies.”
I smiled, “How did you know THAT?”
He smiled, “Well, it just popped out of my brain! I didn’t even know I knew it!”
And while we were having our animated discussion about how to cook a turkey and hot turkey stuffing, I noticed John on the carpet holding his breath. “John, is there a reason you’re holding your breath?”
“Well, I’m just practicing in case I have to battle a great white shark.”
I smiled as the kids started raising their hands to share what they were thankful for this year.
“I am thankful for spending time with my cousins. Oh, and pranking my family.”
Augustus added, “I am thankful that my mom and dad made me.” (Me, too, Augustus, me too!)
I pointed to Izzi, who said, “I am thankful for my aunt Ida.” She then added dramatically, “She’s DEAD, but I’m really, really thankful for her.”
“I am thankful for all the REAL ladies in life. Oh, but not their nail polish. I avoid that completely.”
As I watch the days fly by and we cross the holidays off one by one, I realize how very thankful I am for this particular group of kids. They challenge me, they question me, they exhaust me, they lift me up and make me smile. They remind me that each and every single day is a gift, and that we don’t need to wait until the turkey has been hacked to be thankful.