It started with the kids which is why it worked, the Middle School Student Council, that is. They at first wanted to do a Secret Santa for the whole Middle School. That’s close to 500 of us. The Middle School Student Council talked about it for a long time, brainstorming all kinds of ways this could happen. Finally they settled on a Random Santa idea. Everyone would be paired up with someone from a different grade in a random way. You would be responsible for bringing a gift for your random partner. The idea was not on money but rather on creativity and imagination. A card, some candy, a piece of art that you made. Something generous in spirit. Something reflecting the true essence of the holiday season. The idea would be that we would all gather in the gym and then the students would be told to find their partner. The only clue they would have would be what grade they were in.
There were many doubting teachers. Many who went into this with trepidation and skepticism. Even some of the 8th graders were a bit scornful and thought it childish. Then something happened. Kids were asking other kids if they knew who their partner was. And if so, did they know what that person liked? As Student Council Advisor, I was a bit afraid not everyone would remember to bring a gift, so I bought small boxes of colored pencils, glue sticks, markers. Just in case.
So today, we got into the gym. The Student Council President and Vice President announced a welcome to all and then said—“Find your partner.” It was chaos, lots of noise and lots of middle school bodies pushing, searching, hunting for their partners. Then gradually order grew out of the loud cacophony as partners were located and the pairs sat down. We knew some kids would be absent so we had an “orphan’s corner” where we paired up kids randomly once again. After everyone found a partner, they were asked to invent a creative handshake. A bit more chaos. Then a few words from the principal—and the assembly was over.
It was great. Filled with just the right spirit and intention. The perfect length of time. Out of almost 500 kids, only 7 or 8 forgot gifts (I’m glad I bought extras but clearly did not need as many as I bought). My favorite gift was one that ST made (one of my students), a kind of origami structure all stapled and taped and sloppily folded, but when you rested any opposing tips between your palms and blew on it, it spun really really fast. I mean REALLY fast. All the 6th grader, ST’s partner, could say when he saw how this seemingly banged up and repaired geometric shape worked was, “Wow!”
And that’s all I have to say too.
(Photo by B. Harris)