How to Make Valentine's Day Special for High School Students: Tips for Teachers
Most of us think of Valentine's Day as a romantic holiday, but why does it all have to be about romantic and erotic love? Teenagers are often just starting to understand these types of feelings, and in spite of them, what many teens need the most is to understand that there's somebody who understands how they feel and what they're going through in adolescence. This particular holiday is hard on teens in particular because Valentine's Day is celebrated with considerable wooing and the "popular" students get more Valentine's cards, roses or treats than the students who don't have sweethearts. This is a form of passive bullying (common in high schools) and while it is difficult to stop, teachers have the ability to warm the hearts of those students who are most often left out.
The purpose of this guide is to help you to explore ideas that you can use to brighten the day of the students who may be feeling left out or bullied. Because February 14th falls on a Friday this year, these students are going home to an entire weekend which may be free of any distractions to keep their mind off of their dateless condition. You can be the person who boosts their moods and shows them how much they are loved and cared for in order to prevent students from taking their depression and ill-feelings and taking it out on themselves. Valentine's Day may be a cause of increased suicides and anyone who's been paying attention understands that bullying and suicide are linked. Teachers can take steps to comfort those in need of comfort on February 14th by reaching out.
The Most Important Thing is to Show Your Students You Care
Bullying in all its forms may lead to teen suicide, and passive bullying is no exception to this rule. Many adults feel lonely or unwanted on Valentine's Day, but teenagers are particularly susceptible to feelings of low self-esteem, and this is worsened by the passive bullying that occurs in schools when roses are carnations are being sold in the school. Whether you support the practice or not (I do), you have a responsibility to be available for those students who need somebody to talk to about feeling unwanted. You can be a friend for your students, often in a way their parents cannot be.
Don't be afraid to tell your students that you care about them. If you're permitted to give them an e-mail address, make one special that your students can contact you at. Let them know that they can leave you anonymous messages through the office if they want to write their problems down and reach you for help. Make a practice of allowing your students to contact you anonymously if they're feeling bullied so that you can address your class about bullying. Reach out to them and let them know -- in no uncertain terms -- that you are available to them, and then be available to them! Don't just talk the talk, but walk the walk too.
Do you do something for your class on Valentine's Day?
Sending a Message of Support to Your Students
Above all else, your goal should be to send a message of support to your students for Valentine's Day. One excellent way to do this is to create Valentines for each of your students and personalize them.
The best way to do this is to write something on each card that you feel is special about the student. They may roll their eyes and toss the cards aside, but they will remember the message that you wrote to them and about them. Keep these messages very personal and don't reuse the same message for two different students.
John, I appreciate how hard you work in class. I recognize that it's not easy for you, but you keep trying.
Kelly, it's always a pleasure to see your bright smile when you walk through the door to my classroom. I'll miss you next year!
Sean, your papers are always so well-written that they are a pleasure to read. You should think about writing professionally one day.
Point out the things about each student that make them unique and special to you.
Hand Out Treats for Valentine's Day
When you go out of your way to purchase or bake treats for your students, you illustrate to them that you're thinking about them even when you aren't with them. This is a highly significant gesture which, if noticed, will help your students to understand that they are worth the time that you spend thinking about them when you aren't working. It's always better if you bake or make something, but you do have the option of picking up a bag of Valentine's candy from the store and passing that out with your Valentine's messages to your students.
- All the Good Things
A teacher's ad hoc class assignment is kept and treasured by her students.
Have Your Students Encourage One Another for Valentine's Day
This project has to be done before February 14th. Since it falls on a Friday in 2014, beginning this on Monday will give you enough time to get it all finished in time for the holiday at the end of the week. It's time consuming for you and some of your students may find it difficult, but if you're looking for an encouraging project/assignment that will affect your students not just this year, but for the rest of their lives, you cannot beat this project. I participated in it when I was in the sixth grade and it has touched and influenced my entire life. I'll never forget what it felt like to get that paper that represented the finished project. To this day when I think about that project, I get teary.
Who wouldn't want to do that for their students?
This is a very meaningful project. Check the papers your students return to you before taking them home and have students make any necessary corrections.
Here's How it Works
This project comes with several steps that need to be completed, and the most tiresome part is yours to complete. Rest assured, however, that nothing will make a deeper impression than this if you're trying to make your students feel loved.
- Give each student a single sheet of lined paper and a pencil (not a pen -- you want them to be able to erase their writing if they get it wrong the first time).
- Ask students to write down the names of every student in their class. If there are any absences that day, write the names on the board so that nobody gets overlooked by anyone.
- Next, have each student write next to their classmate's names one good thing about that student. Example: Sara always wears the coolest socks to class!
- Collect the papers from your students.
- At home, pull out one paper for each student in your class. (If you have 33 students, you gather 33 sheets of paper). This is best if written by hand and not typed!
- Now each student has a single piece of paper. Sara (example above) will have her own sheet. Without writing down the names of the students who wrote about her, write down what they said.
- Return the papers you've written to the students.
I've included two tables below to show what the sheets you collect should look like and what the sheets you return should look like (roughly).
This is What the Students Give You
Message to Student
John always helps me when I need help with my homework.
Kelly's smile makes me feel good.
Sara's clothes are the best! Where can I get some like them?
Susan makes me laugh so hard that milk comes out my nose.
Rachel's quiet, but she always makes me feel like she cares about me.
Luke's really great at football.
This is what You Give the Students
John always helps me when I need help with my homework.
John raised the most money for our fundraiser.
John always helps the handicapped kids at lunch.
John made sure I got lunch that day when I didn't have lunch money.
John always stops bullies when they're attacking.
Make Sure Your Students Have Access to Help
Without being too direct, do make sure that your students have access to help. If you absolutely feel that you have to, point out that there are suicide hotlines to help them if they're feeling particularly lonely and vulnerable this Valentine's Day. If possible, you may wish to give them access to you personally (but not all school districts will allow this and therefore it should be avoided if it's illegal in your school. You can't help students if you get fired). Remember that this can be a tough day for them and that the best thing that you can do is to reach out to them. They'll appreciate it, if not this year, later in life.