How can we spread goodwill in the classroom and really teach our students the joy of giving. This year, I’m changing how I’ve done this in the past. We live in a community that loves Christmas. The parents love that we celebrate holidays with their children at school. In the past, I’ve had a gift exchange where my students bring a gift for another student. We’ve done it in two different ways 1) students draw a name and buy a gift for a specific fellow student and 2) boys bring a wrapped boy gift and girls bring a wrapped girl gift.
The children love this. Some of the parents love it and some of them don’t. I actually haven’t heard from any parents who hate it, but I’m not thrilled with it. As a parent, I feel that obligated gift-giving is a burden. We are on a budget and struggle to buy gifts for our own family. A classroom gift exchange might be fun if you have one or two children, but it’s a burden for large families and embarrassing for those who live in poverty. When each of our children are obligated to buy a gift costing $5-$10 each, we’re talking up to $60 of our budget just for classroom events!
Another thing that I don’t love about classroom gift exchanges is the discontent that I see in some children. They can’t really help it; they’re just kids. But it has bummed me out when I’ve seen children thrilled as they open their gift only to show discontent 60 seconds later when they watch their neighbor open their gift. I know it’s just a kid thing, but it turns my stomach a little. The point of the gift exchange was to generate a spirit of generosity not entitlement.
No classroom gift exchange for me this year!
I’m teaching my students that true generosity is cheerfully giving to those who could never give back. Instead, we are buying or making gifts for the cats and dogs awaiting adoption at the local animal shelter. I chose needy animals over needy humans because children connect with animals easily. They automatically feel drawn to them and want to care for them.
This is an experiment, but we’ll see how well received it is by the parents and students. My hope is that this will be a blessing for the families and not a burden. They can buy or make cat and dog toys. They can send a small package or can of food without breaking their holiday budget. All our gifts together will add up to be a truly generous gift for the animals at the shelter.
I wish I had thought of this years ago. The students will come to school feeling proud of their gifts. They will still open a handmade present from me, but their hearts will be full from the pride of giving without expecting something back.