Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Great Santa Conundrum

Being new to third grade means I'm also new to being around 8 and 9 years at Christmas time. These kids take the Santa debate to a whole new level. Sure we had some debate over the existence of Santa in first grade, but the non-believers were fewer and still wished they believed. They hadn't figured out the truth from being clever, they just had parents who told them (often because they got presents from churches or donations and their parents had to bring their kids to pick up the presents and don't have anywhere to hide them.)

In my new position where I am working with more children from middle class backgrounds I am surprised at how many of the third graders still believe in Santa. But at third grade they are starting to be their own detectives to get to the bottom of this mystery. Mid November the Santa conversations have already started. 

On Friday I noticed two children in an intense whisper debate during independent reading. When I went over I realized with horror what was happening. One savvy girl was explaining in detail her own Santa theory, while a boy listened in horror as his Christmas world was rocked. He kept questioning her with "yeah, but..." comments but she seemed to have all the answers. 

He turned and immediately started to break the news with me, not wanting to be the last one to hear the news.

At this I found myself in an internal struggle. I love Santa, I love believing in Santa, and I fully believe that kids should believe as long as possible and when they find out the truth it should come from their parents. (It should be noted that my family still does not acknowledge that he doesn't exist. My father will reply to this post by telling me he doesn't know what I'm talking about. Of course Santa exists.) 

But I'm also working very, very hard to build up trust with this student. All of my work with him so far revolves around having a trusting relationship.

So how do I handle the Santa question without him losing trust in me, but also not letting on that the girl is right. 

Since I didn't have much time to think the first words out of my mouth were "Well, that's news to me." Then I directed them to do their work and pulled the girl into the hallway for the "keep your opinions of the fat man in red to yourself". 

When I came back in the room the student was telling the classroom teacher about the news he'd just learned. There is no refocusing on school work when you first learn Santa doesn't exist. 

I'm not sure I am cut out for third grade...

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