Discover. Uncover. Reveal. Unwrap. This was the deliberate work of December in Room 204. We started with a stack of brown paper packages tied up with string. I had a master list of titles that represented the genres of poetry, winter folktales, Hanukah stories, historical fiction with a Christmas setting, biographies, and scientific writing.
On December 1, with one of the packages on my lap, we talked about the busyness of December. We talked about the shortening days and the lengthening shadows. We talked about the tilt of the earth’s axis and how that made December the darkest month of the year. We also talked about the way December gets so frantic. “That’s why we are going to slow December down,” I told them, “And unwrap it day by day, package by package, book by book. Carefully. Slowly. Deliberately.” And that’s what we did.
Each day we unwrapped a book during morning meeting, and traced the theme of light in darkness through the stories, biographies, and poetry that we shared. We found light through characters’ actions of kindness, truth-telling, standing out, and stepping forward. We heard about the great miracle of just a little oil creating just enough light for eight days. Over and over we encountered the mini-miracle of a change of heart.
Metaphor stirs imagination and deepens learning with its telescopic wide-angle lens. The deeper we dig, the broader our range of vision becomes. On a trip to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, we talked about art as a light in darkness, and how the art of the ancient Greeks cast light on another time and place. We learned about Cesar Chavez in social studies, and observed that citizens who make a difference are a light in the darkness. Before long we began to notice the acts of kindness of one another. We began to notice that each of us, in our own way, became a light in December.
This year December taught me an important lesson. I taught more and accomplished more than I ever have in any other December. And I did it by slowing down. Way down. The pacing chart never left my peripheral vision; we met the curricular goals; but we did so much more.
Regardless of our faith tradition or background, December holds up a special mirror. In the mirror is a reflection of what family life can be. The reflection shows life enhanced with tradition, music, ritual, and family meals, and often includes religious observance at home. This mirrored reflection is the work of home. Home. Work. No traditional homework assignment could be as important as this, so I stopped assigning homework in mid- December. Slow down.
We walked our separate ways into the December holiday all the richer for having unwrapped the month carefully, slowly, and deliberately. A beautiful and meaningful holiday continues at our house that includes four generations. For me, it started on the first day of December in Room 204. We unwrapped December and uncovered the light.