Last year a co-worker told me that she threw a surprise baby shower for one of her seniors who was expecting. Well, it just so happens that I have not one, but three senior girls who are mothers or soon-to-be mothers. One girl has a three year old boy, another has a ten-month old girl, and another is expecting a boy in July. Throughout the year, these three girls have had inconsistent attendance issues ranging from custody battles and doctor’s appointments to babysitting conflicts and fatigue. I’ve given them a ton of makeup assignments with extended deadlines to accommodate their schedule and I’m constantly assuring them that as long as they come to class they have a chance to pass. For the most part, they try their best but still struggle with juggling so many responsibilities.
So going back to my co-worker’s story, once I knew one the girls in my class was pregnant I wanted to throw her a surprise baby shower. I wasn’t sure how to execute it, but I know I wanted to do it towards the end of the school year as a sort of send off. Then I got the bright idea of doing it near mother’s day, and then I figured why not include the two other mothers and do one whole celebration for all three.
So last Thursday I went shopping after work to look for three mother’s day cards and a small gift for each at Baby Gap. I didn’t like any of the cards I found and I picked out a few clearance items, but my meter was running out because I took too long trying to decide what to get the girl, and I must say there’s a huge creative gap (no pun intended) between boy and girl clothes. There’s was just nothing nice, everything was either pinkish or too flowy. In any case, I asked an employee to hold onto the three items with the intention of returning later with CJ. Since I wasn’t too satisfied with my potential gifts, I decided to sift around CJ’s unopened and unused clothes and toys and I found a new Carter’s 6-month onesie for the boy and a shrink wrapped Melissa & Doug +1 puzzle that we had doubles of. So I ended up going back to the Gap to just buy a t-shirt for the three year old and that night I put all of the presents in nice gift bags with tissue paper and I printed three custom mother’s day cards for each girl
I went about most of my free time on Friday tracking down my students in this particular class to write in each card. Although most didn’t even know the names of the girls, they were very cooperative and helpful. I went about the period as normal teaching a lesson and then having my students do some relevant regents practice problems. Towards the end of class I stopped everyone and reminded them that it’s mother’s day on Sunday and that they should show their appreciation to their mom’s. I segued into the fact that we had three mothers in our class and that it’s difficult for them to go to school while balancing their family situation. I told the girls that everyone here wanted to acknowledge their hard work and to encourage them to graduate and finish strong. I gave each of the girls their respective gift and they all immediately went straight for the card and were shocked to find everyone’s involvement. It was a really touching moment as one of the girls began to tear, and even a few boys were watery-eyed as well. The girls didn’t even look to see what else was in the bags, but they kept reading the messages. They kept saying thank you and really couldn’t believe the support and love. It really made them feel special and cared for.
I put a lot of effort into the gifts, but the cards really ended up being the centerpiece of it all. I sort of wish I had done this earlier in the year because I feel this transcended any academic topic and brought the class closer together on a whole different level. I learned that sometimes there are better lessons taught beyond that of a textbook or essay, and among many things, bringing a group of people together to celebrate someone’s presence is a very powerful community-building tool. It’s very difficult to humanize education, but when done correctly, the classroom simply comes alive with learning and growth.
I must say that last Friday was probably one of my top three teaching moments of my entire career.