When the children arrived at school on Thursday and Friday, their first stop, even before taking off their coats and washing their hands, was in the gym where they found all of their friends "Valentine's pockets" arrayed and ready for distribution.
They entered the classroom abuzz, many of them chattering about the Valentine they'd put in my pocket.
We then went about our day as normal until our closing circle when I tried to get them wound up in anticipation of getting their now full "pockets" and heading home. My first year teaching we all went through our Valentines together in the classroom, but after the initial excitement, the little notes of love were scattered all over the place, and the overall vibe descended into battles over which belonged to whom. Not what one wants for Valentine's Day. Since then I've made a big deal about them waiting at least until they're in their cars before opening them.
I said, ". . . and then you get to go into the gym and get YOUR VALENTINES!"
My announcement in both classes (Pre-3's and 3-5's) was met with a cacophony of little voices telling me not about the Valentines they were about the receive, but about the ones they had given. Nice.
Since Chinese New Year begins today as well, I gave each of the kids red envelopes (lai sees in Cantonese) in which I inserted hearts saying "I Love You" on one side. On the other I wrote "Happy New Year" and affixed a shiny good luck penny.
When I got home I went through my own collection of Valentines. Having been a parent on the manufacturing end of the process, I have no judgments about the amount of effort or child participation involved in making them. Making a single Valentine is an enjoyable act of love, but I know that creating 20-50 of the things (some of the kids have older siblings, you know) can be a real a labor of love, one that often goes far beyond the capacity of a preschooler to concentrate. And besides, they're just as excited about giving you a "Cars Movie" or "Princess" Valentine as they are a multi-layered, lace and bow creation, and that, after all, is what's important.
As I reflect on them, I try to imagine each child's participation in the event, be it choosing the right stickers, carefully writing their own names, wielding a glue stick, or reveling in the special Valentine's Day display at the drug store. Some of the children have dictated special messages just for me. It's all a big, wonderful pile of love.
But as I went through this year's collection, there was one in particular that touched my heart. I have no idea who gave it to me:
Look at that scissor work and those carefully drawn shapes. I love the one torn edge. I like to think the apple stickers are a sign that it was made especially for me, the teacher. It's really quite a masterpiece of love.
Happy Valentine's Day! I hope your life is as full of love as mine. And know this, even if I've never met you, I love you.