Believing in Santa

“Ms. Carlson still believes in Santa,” one of my students remarked for me to hear as she and a friend were drawing and coloring words for our word wall—our collection of vocabulary master words that adorns my front wall. Word walls are meant to help students remember the words they have learned; I help them remember first by asking them to create the bricks.

“That true, Miss?” her friend asked.

“All I know is the big guy leaves stuff at my house every Christmas Eve, and it’s for my daughter. And that’s all I know.”

“Believe in the tooth fairy?”

“The tooth fairy has given me no reason to doubt her.”

This is the silly banter that goes on as kids are relaxing in class two days before the break we no longer call the Christmas break. I let them draw and color and be themselves among their peers. Such simple socializing is learned behavior; it has to be taught.

During the day, I heard things that broke my heart.

One boy said he was at a friend’s house and watched his friend’s father beat his friend with a wire hanger. “My dad doesn’t beat me,” he remarked. The other kids at the table told him he was lucky.

Another child reminisced about his baby brother and how that child had loved Tickle Me Elmo before he died. He told his classmates how his mother would reminisce about the child.

Another child carried in a little curio cabinet he had made in wood shop. Though the teacher had wrapped each little shelf in newspaper so the students could make gifts of their work, this child had unwrapped his. I asked if I could see it. He was genuinely surprised by the question (this kid makes no small task of getting in my face and acting out), but he let me have a look. On the back, he had burned the letters, “RIP Dadd.”

Which made me think of a conversation I had had earlier in the day with a student who was in one of my classes last year. He told me he didn’t know if his mom would be home for Christmas because the cancer he couldn’t quite name was in Stage 2. This idiot asked ,”Do you have something to read?” because, damn It. If your mother has cancer and the future is grim, you need a book to hold onto.

Talking to my mom later today, I had a bit of a flashback as I recalled our family rituals. Every day in life, dinner was at 5 p.m. I don’t know how mom managed to pull that off with such precision. She did, though. The worst I can say about my growing up is that I had a hot meal that included meat, potato, and a vegetable at 5 p.m. every day. That was the third meal of the day. My parents, who never hit me, were there to make sure I did my homework, went to bed on time, and got up on time for school. When I was at school, pleasing my teachers was akin to pleasing my parents. It could be because I had nothing else to worry about.

Always, dinner would be at 5.

Some days these kids who are rude and mean by turns and sometimes come close to knocking me off my feet leave me fantasizing about running away. Most of the time, though, they are my teachers. They remind me of how blessed I am. I have the luxury of joking about dinner at 5 after all.

My words for the wall? Children.  Teachers.


  1. For years I worked with kids at my church. I was often floored by my kids. One day I took the kids to a nursing home to visit and my two troublemakers were so gentle, kind, and sweet to the the people there that I was amazed.

    An Arkies Musings

  2. Such sad stories. Makes you appreciate what you had! My DIL is a first grade teacher and she shares similar stories. They just break her heart. Breaks mine too!!


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