happy, sometimes sad
Marieke van Woerkom
the holidays approach, many people are looking forward to spending time with family
and friends and sharing in the joys of the season. It is easy to take for granted
that everyone is in this happy frame of mind and that all our students are excited
to be getting time off from school. This is, after all, the image that the media
and advertisers bombard us with from all directions--this time of year is supposed
to be joyous.
though, the holiday season may well bring up negative feelings for students and
colleagues from broken or unhappy homes. Some may have lost a family member. Many
families are struggling to keep their heads above water in this economy--they
are worried about finances and keeping a roof over their heads. For many people,
the holidays can be accompanied by grief, stress or loneliness.
important to take all this into consideration as we talk about the holidays in
the classroom. Below is classroom activity aimed at raising students' sensitivity
and providing some encouragement for those who may be facing hardship during this
your students: What is a word that comes to mind for them as they look ahead to
the next ten days?
that the holiday season is often associated with positive images, especially in
the media. Yet for many people and for many reasons, the holidays are not necessarily
joyous. In a go round, ask students to share with the rest of the group a word,
image or feeling--positive or not positive--that comes up for them as they look
ahead to the next ten days. Alternatively ask for volunteers to share their words,
images, or feelings, with the rest of the group.
aloud and Pair Share (30 minutes)
Read the following
story to your class or ask a volunteer to do so:
stories from street corner and coffee shop
Tom Gilsenan from his blog on myspace (http://blogs.myspace.com/)
taught me about how strong is the desire among young people for a family "that
works" on holidays. We happened to be in the same coffee shop one Christmas
night. She was in a corner, along, crying softly.
been there awhile," the cook said. "Would you go over and try to talk
pulled a chair up beside her. She told me to go away. I didn't say anything, but
pushed my chair back a little. After a few more minutes, she looked up and said:
"I thought I told you to go away."
did," I said, "but it's hard to leave when you're sitting here crying."
wouldn't understand," she said. "You probably have a family and everything
was fine today. My family is all screwed up. This year I thought things would
be different. I tried so hard to make everything work. Then my dad and stepmom
started criticizing my friends. We ended up yelling at each other...and then I
left. I came here because I didn't know where else to go."
waited a minute and then responded. "Isn't it great that this place is here
-- and open. I like it because it's almost a second family. I wanted to spend
a little time with this family, too, on Christmas, so I came here tonight.
once told me a story about families. There's our family of chance -- the one we
were born into. Then there's our family of choice -- the one we create as we go
along in life. Sometimes the families of choice and chance are the same. But for
lots of people and lots of reasons, that doesn't always work out.
tried to make yours work. That's wonderful. And it's an inspiration for those
of us who are older and may have given up trying. Thank you."
looked up. "You're not just saying that to make me feel better, are you?"
I replied. "One of my heroes is a woman named Jane Addams. She talked about
young people wanting to make the world a better place -- from their own families
all the way to way to world peace. Here you are tonight reminding me that wish
is still alive. Thanks. Say, can I get you another cup..."
students to break into pairs to discuss the story they just heard:
do they think about the story?
they relate to any of it? If so, why?
the whole group. Ask some volunteers to share what they discussed in their pairs.
Make sure to elicit comments and associations that are different so that you get
a variety of reflections on the story. Use some or all of the questions below
to continue building on the group dialogue:
anyone relate to Melissa? How?
are some of the challenges Melissa faced over the holidays?
you think these are any different from the challenges she may face at other times
of the year?
do things sometimes seem to be more intense around the holidays?
it possible that people's expectations affect how things turn out over the holidays?
do you think about the idea of a family of chance and a family of choice?
did Melissa do when things got to be too much?
you think the stranger Melissa met in the coffeeshop was able to help her feel
a bit better?
you know of people in your own life who might be struggling over the holidays?
Are there ways you think you might be able to help them out?
students: If we feel a little overwhelmed or upset over the holidays, what might
we do to feel better? What could we do to help someone else who is feeling overwhelmed
during the holidays?
The Dutch have a saying: "Shared sorrow
is half the sorrow and shared joy is double the joy." What do you think this
saying means? How do you think it relates to what we talked about today? Ask a
few volunteers to share.
did this activity work in your class? Please share your stories and other feedback
with us! Email: email@example.com.