Monday, December 3, 2012

Promoting a Spirit of Giving: How Your School Family Can Help Others

One of my major responsibilities between Halloween and Thanksgiving is coordinating holiday assistance for our families in need. Unfortunately, this responsibility gets larger and larger each year with more and more of my families needing help. Our school district is fortunate to have many community agencies that offer support to our families during the holiday season. The year, various families from my school will be fortunate enough to receive help from the Elks organization, the Shop with a Cop Program in our city, several other community agencies and churches, and our own staff and students in our school. In addition to these avenues, we also have other schools and families that adopt families in our school.

Our student council hosts a coat and hat drive. Many of these items go right back into our own clothes closet that we have in our school. We have great participation in this activity. Our school aged child care program collects dog food and supplies for the local animal shelter in the area. Lastly, our own staff very generously buy gifts for students in our school. This program is called "A Shoe box Christmas." This is the service project I'll focus most of my time on today.

A Shoe box Christmas began at our school 4 years ago when the 5th grade teachers were the ones responsible for planning our building Christmas activities. One of our teachers brought this idea to us and wanted to do it. So, we ran with it. Here's how it works. It is a great way for teachers to make a positive impact on our students. I love it because everyone participates - secretaries, nurses, administration, lunch ladies, teachers, paraprofessionals, etc. This year, our staff are making over 60 shoe boxes for students in our building.

Before Thanksgiving, I send an e-mail out to all staff members asking them to nominate students they feel would benefit or enjoy a "little something extra" this Christmas. These students do not all have to have financial needs. Sometimes, they have experienced a loss or sometimes just need that extra pat on the back or hug. All of our backpack weekend feeding program kids get a shoe box  all of our homeless kids get a shoe box  and all of our kids living in the hotel get a shoe box  After that, it is up to the teachers to decide who they think is deserving or needing of one.

Then, I send another e-mail asking teachers who would like to make a shoe box  A shoe box is what it sounds like...a shoe box, filled with around $20 in small gifts, clothing items, candy, treats, etc. for a specific child. I take both lists - kids who need a shoe box and teachers who want to make one (or more) and match them up. Then I e-mail the teacher who they are shopping for (ex. 5th grade boy). They shop, put it in a shoe box wrap it up, and put their name on a post-it note and then return it to me. When I have all of the shoeboxes back in my office, I take my list, take the post-it note off of the shoebox and write the child's name on it. Then I sort them by grade level.

The last day before winter break, I gather the students together by grade level in my office and give them their wrapped shoe box. When the kids ask who they are from, I tell them that Santa brought me a gift for them and wanted me to give it to them. I do ask the students to wait until they get home to open their gifts. The reason for this is that I tried to have them open them at school one year and the students complained when someone else got something better than they did. So, they take them home. We go to a local grocery store and ask them to donate handled brown paper sacks so it is easier for the students to carry them home.

I hope I've done a good enough job explaining the shoe box gift project. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to e-mail me!

One of my professional goals for 2013 is to keep the spirit of giving alive year round in my school. Service learning is going to be my theme for the spring. I'm excited to start exploring the possibilities!