When I was teaching here in Navasota, we were allowed to have Christmas parties in our classrooms. It was always on the last day before the Christmas break and it was a half-day, to boot. Besides taking attendance and lunch there wasn’t much else going on academically. The kids were so amped up and ready to get out of school for a while all I could do was to keep them contained – and possibly entertained for a few short hours.
These special days always started off as a day of busywork for the kids, but as the years went on, I could tell that what they really wanted was a chance to dance. I had a used and abused portable stereo in my classroom and the kids asked if they could use it to listen to some music. I said, “Sure,” not fully knowing the transformative effect that was about to take place. Almost instantly chairs and desks started to get moved about to create a makeshift dance floor. And friends, they danced, and danced, and danced with all of their youthful energy. It was truly a sight to see! It was magic! That’s when I learned what they really wanted for Christmas, and it wouldn’t cost me a dime.
During the following years I was able to make the party much bigger and better. The kids volunteered to bring in snacks and before long we had a huge spread of nachos, Frito Pie, chips, dips, sodas, and candy – lots of candy! I bought a better stereo setup and completely gave up on any instruction taking place on party day. One year I totally pranked the kids by telling them that there wasn’t going to be a party because none of them brought the food items they said they would bring. They were notorious about signing up to bring something and then forgetting at the last minute. Anyway, they totally bought my sad story about no party, but when they came in the room their eyes lit up when they saw that I had everything decorated, all of the food was ready, and the desks and chairs were stacked up in the corner of the room and at a press of a button on my new stereo set, the party was on!
Every year I tried to make the Fifth Grade Christmas Party a little better than last time. The height of my achievement was during the year before I retired. My parties had gained a reputation up and down the hallway as being the best – and the loudest of all time. Students from other rooms would routinely wander in and stay for a long while, mingling with my kids. This made things very overcrowded, so I created VIP passes for each of my students and I had two boys act as security guards at the door. I even had a velvet rope that the boys would only allow VIPs to pass through. The whole scene was ordered chaos, but AHH! What fun!
When the music finally died down and the kids lined up to go home, I got some of the best presents I have ever received – heartfelt hugs. Kids that were not all that outgoing were all smiles on that day. It’s impossible to give 27 kids their own personally wrapped Christmas present, but I think I did a fair job of making some lasting memories. I will never forget the look of pure joy on their faces. There is a season for everything, especially a time to dance, to have fun – and to just be a kid. I’ve grown older since that time, but I haven’t completely grown up. I will also never ever forget the magic of those special moments with the kids. You don’t need money to make a child’s Christmas bright, just show them some love.
Alan Shoalmire is a resident in Grimes County and the owner of Grill Sergeant and submits a column to the Navasota Examiner every other week.