4 Reasons You Shouldn’t Work Too Hard on Classroom Birthday Traditions


As the summer is drawing to an end, I find myself coding and leveling all of the new(ish) books for my classroom library. I come across a lot of inscriptions, occasionally from teacher to student, but this one made me a little bit sad. This birthday letter is not just long and thoughtful, it is hand-written, personalized, illustrated and colored. Somewhere in Canada (note that this book made it all the way to a thrift store in Texas) is a teacher who like most of us, really loves her students. I don’t know how many students she had in 2010, but she put in a lot of time on this only for it to be discarded less than 4 years later. This along with some of the completely insane classroom birthday ideas I have seen on pinterest have me thinking. There are good reasons not to go over the top for student birthdays.

1. So that you don’t find your thoughtful gift at a thrift store some day.

Finding ungrateful Matthew’s book made me sad. Maybe he actually cherished it and it got lost. We  can hope, but we will never know. I think finding an illustrated inscription of that caliber that I personally made at the resale shop would destroy me.

2. Jehovah’s Witnesses

I have had some very sweet and devout students of this faith. Some of them understand why they don’t participate. Some of them will ask you for the birthday treatment even after their parents asked you not to. Anyway you slice it, this makes you feel terrible. In some cases I attempt to dote on them some other day and give them a non birthday themed, I appreciate you gift on a day which is not his or her birthday.

3. Summer Birthdays will kill you

The whining about this will begin with the first birthday you celebrate. That kid with the first August/September birthday does not get to fully enjoy their moment because it is interrupted by a barrage of announcements and complaints by kids who know they will not be in school on their birthday. Whatever tradition you come up with, you will have to do a flood of them in May. If it was very thoughtful and work intensive, you could put yourself at risk of being unable to accommodate all of the summer birthday kids.

4. Consistency/ You have enough else to do

You love your students. You do nice things for them all the time. Any procedure you establish, you have to stick to and there are likely a lot of other more important procedures going on in your classroom. Maybe you are making something really awesome for them right now. That’s great. You saved yourself some during the year time, but now you have to store whatever it is.

You should do something for birthdays, just be very mindful of what it is. It is possible that some kids come from such big families that their birthdays get forgotten. Whatever small gesture you do for that kid is of immeasurable value. It is also possible that they will make a big deal about your birthday and you will feel like a pile of excrement if you didn’t do anything for them.

A class birthday tradition should: not take too much class time, not take too much preparation time on your part, and make the student feel loved/appreciated by the teacher and class.

Example: Buy a bag of inexpensive gifts (candy, pencils, toys whatever) Give the birthday kid a prize, pay them at least one very specific compliment about who they are as a person (the quality kind that leaves them with warm fuzzies) and have the class either sing or participate in some type of chant or cheer. The end. Keep teaching having adequately celebrated your birthday student.


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