The holiday season is in full swing, and as my children have grown a little bit older, I have learned that what’s most important to me (and at least as important to my children) are the traditions we have created and the memories we make each holiday season. It is working together to open our Christmas decorations in anticipation of finding our favorite ones and placing them proudly in the same spots they were last year, and many years before that. It is being the first house in our neighborhood to hang the many Christmas lights and gathering with the neighbors to “flip the switch”. It is picking out the perfect Christmas tree, burning the extra pine in the fire – sometimes with the first hot cocoa or hot cider of the year.
It is… decorating the tree while listening to Christmas music and telling the story of each ornament as we hang it; doing the advent calendar and Christmas count downs; lighting the scented candles that fill the house with warmth and holiday scents; baking our favorite cookies and choosing new recipes to try; having all the neighborhood kids over to decorate Christmas cookies (even the 12 year old boys still count on this!).
It’s driving together to see the Christmas lights on our favorite streets and houses. It’s hanging the pictures on the refrigerator of Christmas gifts past and remembering those that still remain favorites (skateboards and scooters) and gifts that were a bust (Swim to Me Puppy and Wii light sabers). It’s reminiscing about all of the Santa’s lap stories over the years (In our house, there has NEVER been a year where sitting on Santa’s lap has gone well). And it’s the Christmas Eve Open House we host for all of our family and friends.
As I reflect on our Christmas traditions, I am reminded that as educators we are also responsible for creating memories. Yes, we want all of our students to be strong readers, writers, and mathematicians. We want them to excel in the content we teach, be critical thinkers, productive members of the 21st century, and all the other things reflected in our mission statements; but equally important are the experiences we create and the memories we make. Ultimately, maybe we shouldn’t just be asking our students to reflect on the content they’ve learned, but also to reflect on the experiences, memories, and stories they have gathered as they pass through our classrooms and schools. In fact, those experiences, memories, and stories just might turn out to be the most far-reaching and powerfully impactful “content” they take with them.