I recently made a TikTok to encourage people to read a blog post written by the founding director of the organization I work for. It was about reconsidering spending time on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day projects in the classroom and instead leaving that up to families. I’m sure most, if not all, teachers can recall a child for whom Mother’s or Father’s Day was not a time for joy. For me this happened just about every year. Each year I would do my best to make it more inclusive, give kids options for who to make the card/gift for. “Oh, you don’t live with your mom? Sure you can make it for your grandma.” Or “Oh, that’s right you have two moms? Sure you can make two cards.” Like many of the mistakes I made in the classroom (or in life), it took me too long to realize that my “solutions” weren’t working. Even the way I gave options didn’t prevent a child from feeling awkward, or worse, traumatized. I should’ve been able to figure this out sooner given my own complicated relationships with my mother and step-mom.
The first comments on my video were encouraging. People shared their own experiences and why they appreciated not having to do these projects. But then the other comments started. A few were just mean and included some choice words. Those got deleted. Then there were others that insisted that this wasn’t fair to all the other kids or were angry that I was trying to abolish a holiday. Not trying to abolish a holiday and trying to be fair to ALL kids–I didn’t think that would be so controversial. Then I remembered a section from Colleen Cruz’s book, Risk. Fail. Rise. in which she describes educational Thomassons: practices that are actually useless or wrong, but that we keep doing. We keep doing them for different reasons, but one of them is that they make us feel warm and fuzzy so we don’t recognize the harm that we might be doing. And when confronted with contrary evidence, it’s human nature to hold on tighter to our beliefs. I imagine that the tradition of making Mother’s Day projects could fall into this category.
I recently read a tip from another educator that I think would work: give all of the kids options to make as many cards/projects for whomever. This way no one is left feeling like they’re doing something different. Or I could just let it go.