You hear that? Listen close. That pecking noise … That is the sound of millions of teachers worldwide preparing their “What did you get for Christmas?” assignment. Everyone knows winter break is coming to an end. However, that doesn’t stop teachers from waiting until the last minute to plan what they are doing on that first day back. Not wanting to jump right into the content many of them default to the “what did you get” or “what did you do over winter break” assignment. Maybe that is what you are doing right now as we speak. If so, go ahead and throw it away.
There are so many reasons that this school activity needs to die.
First and foremost, as we have already discussed on this site: Not everyone celebrates Christmas. And even those who celebrate it don’t necessarily celebrate it the same way. In schools that are supposed to be secular and public this reason alone should be enough to avoid such an assignment.
The reason that this is it’s on post and not just an addendum to the aforementioned one is because of the second major reason: Not everybody gets a bunch a gifts for Christmas.
Asking students what they got for Christmas in a class setting is a recipe for students to feel left out or feel like they have to lie. Even in Title I schools where teachers know many of their students’ families struggle financially, this kind of assignment or activity is pervasive and there is absolutely no reason for it.
This isn’t to say students shouldn’t be allowed to talk about it on their own. You couldn’t stop them if you wanted to. However, putting kids in a informal contest of one-upmanship is wrong. That kid in your class who got a new football for Christmas was probably pretty excited about his gift until you let the kid who got a PlayStation 5 regale the class for 10 minutes. That girl was probably really liked her new Crocs until you let that other girl wax poetic about her $200 Jordans.
You can’t protect kids from income inequality. You can’t even hide it, nor should you. It is perfectly okay for students to realize that some people have more money than others. That isn’t a bad lesson to learn. What we shouldn’t do as educators is create situations in classrooms where that forms a hierarchy even if it’s just the one day after winter break.
PS: This is the cousin of “Where did you go over summer-break?”