The Santa Claus Issue
I would like you teachers to consider the following dilemma: how involved are you willing to get at this time of year in whether your students believe in Santa Claus or not? Let me share a true story that causes me to pose this question to you today.
I have a student in my fifth-grade class who, according to her mother, still believes in Santa Claus. Now, by fifth grade, most students have abandoned their earlier beliefs about the existence of Santa Claus. It is a rarity to find a student at this grade level who still believes in the guy in the red coat and pants, with the full white beard, and the sleigh full of presents. Most of them have come to the conclusion by the time they hit my grade that Santa is really their parents, and as long as the presents keep coming in every year, they are okay with that. But, at this time of year, it is often a focus of conversation and conjecture amongst students.
So, imagine my surprise when I received a phone call from a parent whose daughter came home from school very upset due to another student in my classroom asking her if she believed and indicating that he did not. Okay, now I know this is a difficult time for parents because most of us love creating that magic for our children and enjoy their excitement almost as much as they do. I’m not sure who is most upset when our child’s innocent beliefs are shattered, but for this mom, it was pretty clear she could not cope with this situation and was pretty panicked over how it would change Christmas if her daughter stopped believing.
So, what were her demands, because they most certainly were stated as such? First, she wanted me to talk to the student who had laid the groundwork for doubt in her daughter’s eyes. Second, she strongly suggested that I sit down with her daughter and reassure her that there was a Santa. I must confess that this was a first for me. In all my years of teaching, I have never been asked to intervene in a Santa-Claus-loss-of-faith moment, and I was very unwilling to do so now. I had no problem speaking calmly to the student who opened this conversation and reinforce the need to keep our opinions to ourselves when we are talking to someone who still believes. But, I am not this girl’s parent, and I refuse to be forced into a position that should clearly be handled by a parent. So, I talked to the other student, but I ignored the outrageous request to parent this woman’s child.
Teachers are being forced more and more to take on parental roles with their students, and I have done so often when that role is not being filled at home. But I draw the line when it comes to pushing Santa Claus on fifth-graders. Forgive me, Santa, but this is just not my job!