Remember valentines? They were little cards you gave to your friends on Valentine’s Day back in elementary school. A valentine exchange took place during class and afterwards you would sort through the little cards, counting them and setting aside the ones from your best friends. Next to Halloween, Valentine’s Day was one of the most looked-forward-to school days of the year.
This year at my daughter’s school there wasn’t a valentine exchange. Instead of bringing in hand-made (or at least store-bought, hand-signed ) valentines from home, students were encouraged to wear red or pink and then participate in a school-wide valentine activity — each kid made and designed a giant paper heart, then went around the school and had their friends and other kids sign it. They got to bring the big valentine home.
My daughter really likes her big heart. It’s hand-made and personalized, with printed messages like, “You are nice,” and “Friends forever.” I like it too. What I don’t like, however, is the rationale her school used for switching valentine tacks (just last year they were allowed to bring cards from home, so long as they were inclusive and brought one for everyone in their class). The school blamed it on the environment:
“We calculated that if every child at school buys a typical sized box of 30 valentine’s cards, it adds up to 3000 cards! Imagine the trees we are saving by not exchanging cards in our school.”
Really? I’m sorry, but in the context of a school, where paper is basically the currency, this strikes me as a really lame excuse. I can only speculate, but I imagine there are other reasons the school changed its Valentine’s Day celebration. Did some students feel left out last year and complain? Are teachers tired of managing the card exchange and subsequent tears and/or hurt feelings? Were some parents annoyed by the commercialization of the holiday (mass produced Dora and Care Bears cards, etc.) and pushed for a from-hand, crafty alternative? Who knows. But maybe it would be better to have a conversation about the real issues (or maybe I’m way off base) than to use Mother Nature as a scapegoat.
What do you think? Did your school allow a valentine exchange this year?