Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Birthdays

Some adults find it hard to talk to children.  While I'm not advocating talking to strange children (well, they're all strange, I actually mean strangers talking to children), there is a secret I've learned if you ever need to have a conversation with your college roommate's kid or your boss's children.

If you ever want to get a child to talk, bring up birthdays.  Specifically their birthday.  A birthday is the one subject that every single child is absolutely enamored with because it revolves around them. You won't even have to ask much - just ask them when their birthdays are and most kids will be off and running.  Shyer kids might take a little more prompting, which is when you bring up cake or presents or birthday parties.

One of the first things I always did in my classroom was to make a birthday chart.  They have fancy ones at the teacher supply stores, but you can get any kind of calendar or posterboard and just write down names and birthdays. (This is much trickier when you have Jehovah's Witnesses in your classroom, as they're not supposed to celebrate birthdays.  I have only ever had one Jehovah's Witness in my class and he was pretty bummed about it so I tried to play down birthdays all year, but it was tough.)

It doesn't matter that much how you celebrate the birthdays as a teacher - whether that's with special pencils or cupcakes (in the few areas that still allow kids to bring sweets to school) or a special birthday hat - the important thing is to make the kid feel special, and for a reason they didn't have to ear.  It's a free celebration.  If the child's birthday is on a weekend or in the summer, you need to do the closest day or the half birthday, anything.

Some kids don't have a whole lot to celebrate.  Some kids are never celebrated at all.  One day a year teachers can help a little and celebrate kids for just existing - not for earning anything or getting a certain grade, but just for being themselves.

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