Slice of Life: The Valentine Day Dilemma

(This is part of the reflective Slice of Life feature at Two Writing Teachers. Next month, the entire month is reflective Slices of Life, with prizes and support from other writers. You should join in.)

I was watching my youngest son finish up his class Valentine Day cards. He looked a bit like Michael Jordan, driving to the hoop. His tongue was out; his eyes were narrow; his fingers held the marker as he scribbled more to his picture. He was putting a lot of effort into what he was doing … for what? So that he would have some cards to give out to his classmates, who would have cards to give to him, and all because of a greeting card holiday.

It didn’t help that his teacher sent home a class list last week. If that is not pressure, what is. And my wife and I felt the pressure, too, and urged him to finish up those cards.

I don’t know. Why push Valentine’s Day on schoolchildren? It’s not love. It’s the candy that they want. I would rather have had my son outside, practicing some basketball dribbling (he needs it, believe me) or creating an imaginary world in his tree fort, or reading a book (or having me read him a book) than making cards that will get tossed into a backpack, forgotten by tonight.

Or maybe this is just me.

I had a student in my class ask if she could bring in cupcakes today. I almost told her “no” but then felt like a Grinch or something, so I stilfled that negative impulse, and told her “yes” and she was all happy to be able to do something special for the class.  And they do love their cupcakes. Now that, I can understand and support. But the cards? Eh, leave them at home.

Peace (in the flip side),


  1. Your writing allowed me to imagine what it is like for so many students as they prepare Valentine’s for their classmates. Valentine’s Day Parties have been part of the elementary classroom for more than 60 years, and I think they will continue to be. Students love parties (or cupcakes) and the candy they often receive with their cards. We celebrate the day in my room with a party, but students are able to decide if they will bring cards for everyone or none at all. The focus on the days leading up to Valentine’s Day is on “warm fuzzies” and being nice. Happy Valentine’s Day!

  2. Kevin…
    It’s not just you. I had similar thoughts watching my three kids prepare their forced-valentines. They each figured out how many cards would be left over so they could send them to the people of their choice!

    However, my second grader, asked to make cupcakes. She spent time decorating them, smiling, and saying, “My friends are going to love these!”

    I’m with you “in the flip side,”

  3. At my school there are parties & some of the teachers do some kind of art project, but in school. I don’t think there are the regular Valentines, but there are lots of pink, purple & red sweets. Some object to that too. It’s a dilemma as to how to react. Some parents bring vegies & dip to counteract the sugar & think that’s better. I actually loved Valentines Day when I taught the middle school kids because I did poetry with them & we read & created love poems, or anti-love poems-lots of fun! When in a group, it’s difficult to know how to help your child, isn’t it?

  4. I have fond memories of valentines piling up on my desk in elementary school, but now I could care less about the holiday. I guess it holds meaning and value to kids when they can hoard them. However, it’s devoid of meaning when they’re filling out all of those cards. I don’t get it.

    Valentine’s Day is tricky as a teacher, but I think you made the right call on allowing those cupcakes. Besides, it’s always nice to have a snack. 🙂

  5. I don’t have cards in my class. In fact I wouldn’t have had anything special happening this year except that it was actually one of my student’s birthday. My rule is they can bring in a treat, on their birthday, to share during Read Aloud. (They have to play host and do all the serving, etc.) She asked if it was OK to bring in gift bags. Since it was her birthday I said ‘OK’ and she passed them out on their way out the door. Glad it is done until next year!

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