Valentines and Values
By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller
In spite of the cookies, punch, temporary suspension of school work, and the
festive atmosphere of this atypical school day, Betsy, a third grader in a
suburban Michigan elementary school, was not having a good day. Perhaps it
had something to do with the fact that she is 30 pounds overweight and just
opened her fifth valentine containing a picture of a pig.
Jerrod, a fourth grader in the same school, sulked his way through afternoon
recess because of the inordinate number of skunk and cross-eyed boy valentines
he received minutes earlier.
Are these incidents isolated and extreme? We think not. Actually they are a part
of an annual February ritual called The Valentine’s Day Massacre.
Each year, February 14th is unknowingly used in classrooms to complete the covert
task of allowing children to silently and symbolically inform their classmates of
how they feel about them. This process, the sorting and distribution of valentines,
delivers messages to children as to where they fit in the social hierarchy of the
classroom. It’s a pictoral sociogram of sorts, with one major flaw--- each child,
due to the collection of valentines he accumulates in front of him, is handed a
personalized and public signal of where he fits in socially. Since children are
able, either consciously or unconsciously, to decipher the silent messages sent
through valentines, the experience is potentially damaging for many youngsters.
The February ritual can also negatively affect the overall classroom atmosphere.
Examine a box of 50 valentines. Look for the messages they convey.
Typically, valentines send one of three messages:
1.)“You’re a winner.”
2.)“You’re a loser.”
3.)“I have no strong feeling about you one way or the other.”
A fourth message, “You’re invisible,” is often sent to the child who receives
fewer valentines than other students.
Some children randomly sign their name to any valentine, stuff it in an envelope,
and invest no time deciding who gets which particular one. Other children examine
valentines thoughtfully, sorting and classifying them, being careful to make sure
valentines with specific connotations go to the appropriate people. It is the later
who creates problems that result in hard feelings on Valentine’s Day.
To prevent a Valentine’s Day Massacre in your classroom, why not use the event to
help your students learn some valuable lessons about themselves and each other? How
about bringing in a packet of valentines two weeks before February 14th? Display
them on the board or let cooperative groups examine a handful before exchanging
them with other groups. Challenge students to look at them for biases. Have them
complete a questionnaire similar to the one below.
1.)Which one would you give your teacher if you wanted to get on her good side?
2.)Which one would you give to your teacher if you didn’t like her?
3.)Which ones would you give to the most intelligent person in the class?
4.)Which one would you give to the best liked person in the class?
5.)Is there one to give to a thin person?
6.)Is there one appropriate for an overweight person?
7.)Which one would you give to the class “show off?”
8.)Are there valentines that are appropriate for an athlete?
9.)Which one would you most likely to give a person with unusual features,
(nose, ears, height, etc.)?
10.)Is there one that is appropriate for an artist or musician?
How would you feel if……
1.You received the elephant valentine from several people?
2.You got a skunk valentine that was unsigned?
3.You received 12 valentines from a class of 26?
A.)Pick a valentine that you feel is biased because of the picture and/or the wording.
How would you change it to make it less offensive?
B.) Design a valentine of your own choosing. See if your partner can guess for what
stereotype it is intended.
C.) What ideas to you have to make Valentine’s Day a happier time for all the class
and bring us closer together?
D.)Write a paragraph telling valentine manufacturers what you think of their product.
Adapt or adopt the ideas above. Change them around to fit you and your classroom. Help
turn Valentine’s Day into what was originally intended, the communication of love,
affection, and high regard to the important people in our lives.
Happy Valentine’s Day
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of “The 10 Commitments: Parenting with
Purpose," (available from Personal Power Press at toll free 877-360-1477, amazon.com,
and bookstores everywhere). Chick Moorman is also the author of “Spirit Whisperers:
Teachers Who Nourish A Child’s Spirit.”
They publish a FREE email newsletter for parents and another for teachers. Subscribe
to them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit
www.chickmoorman.com, www.thomashaller.com, and www.10commitments.net.