Valentines in the Classroom: Inclusive or Intrusive?

Prior to Valentines Day, one of our kid's teachers sent home this:

"I have spoken to the students and have stated that if you bring a Valentine for one student you must bring one for everyone. This ensures that this day of celebrating friendship and caring makes everyone feel included. I will send students home with a list of classmate names today for spelling and to ensure no one is forgotten."

We went ahead and polled our community on Facebook for their opinion on this inclusivity request.  What was striking was that the non-North Americans (mostly British in this sample) thought the request was crazily intrusive and that it had little to do with how they perceived the meaning of Valentines Day. In UK Valentine's are sent only to people you have a crush on and even then anonymously. 
The North American men who replied generally expressed some level of exasperation with the classroom appropriation of the event. However the North American women were almost unanimously supportive of the teacher's inclusivity angle - that the day was about general friendship not romanic love - and also took issue with the fact that the teacher's intentions had been questioned in the first place.

We'll let you conclude from that what you will. Here is at least some of what came back - do forgive some of the language!

 Female ​"Romance isn't about everyone feeling included, it's about specialness. Children must be allowed to express preferences. I'd sooner not allow it altogether than attempt this kind of Pc-gone-mad mess."

 Male ​"Eejit. I'm not even sure I'd be as kind as to suggest 'good intentions'." 

​Male "Absolute bollocks! Though you could take him at his word and send one card for someone special and a second, "...one for everyone.", with all the other kids' names on. That might teach him to give instructions with more clarity, too."

Male "LOL. how about the teacher buys a gift for everyone since she's the one deciding to take PC to a whole new level. Also, next time she rewards a student for good work she'd better make sure to reward everyone so that no one gets left out."

 Female  "True story: I was looking through a box of childhood school things, and found a cute handmade card by a 3rd grade classmate that read 'Bonne Fete - Je t'aime beaucoup'. I was both touched and puzzled, as I didn't recall who that girl was. Then I found a second, and a third card, identically phrased, and realized the students were just following orders. That's all very nice and fair of the teacher, but it doesn't compare with the feeling of special treatment!"

 Male "It used to upset me a little when some years as a kid I didn't get a valentine, but this was far better than the years I received a consolation Valentine."

 Female "I always gave valentines to everyone in my class because I wanted everyone to feel special. I didn't 'hate' anyone in my class, and it didn't hurt me to write a few extra cards... But it wasn't because the teacher had told me to!"

 Female "This is dreadfully controlling of children's personal choices. To take a simple tradition and tamper with it in the name of friendship is ridiculous. I hope she is buying a card for each of the staff and the whole of her street. Yes some people are special to us that's what makes them our friend. Some people are mean or we have nothing in common with them. Therefore why should we buy or make them a card?"

 Female "You're all a bit harsh on the teacher who is having to deal with this ridiculous day! I mean, they're only 9...it's not really about the romance, just the coerced craftmaking. It's like having everyone-over-5'5"-day- 'only the taller shall celebrate, the rest of you just sit around and smile through your tears....better luck next year'. Down with Valentine's Day! At least she said "if" you bring Valentines....."

 Female "Wow! So it's a pain to have everyone feel included. Sheesh. This isn't the same as participation badges. This is about sharing a nice thing with classmates. And yes...some people need to be reminded how to play nice. You can all go back to excluding the weird kid on the playground afterwards."

 Female "I think the teacher made a good choice. We are all one. If there is a kid that isn't popular, can we know truly what the cause of that is? Community is something that should be instilled early in life. These children who are not popular, or don't "fit in" need MORE love and inclusion, not less. This isn't really just about valentines, it's more about teaching - inclusion, love, acceptance and community. Start early, so your children know that everyone is important, everyone is worthy, no matter what." 

 Female "Oh come on, give her a break!!!! At 9 the whole idea of Valentines and love is so far from their minds, maybe even repulsive!! Including all kids and making it about kindness, friendship and fun. Yes there may be cards written that are not genuine, however, learning the lessons of not giving a f*** what others think in grade 4 when you are feeling left out just seems cruel. I will tell my child if she doesn't want to go through the effort to write them for everyone, not to bother. If she has friends that are extra special, she can deliver outside of school. I imagine being the kid that gets no cards when everyone else gets many, would be crushing. Let's teach age appropriate lessons here, maybe not love, but maybe compassion and tolerance."

 Male "Yeah. When I was in my 20's I was always disappointed when all the women in the bar didn't pay attention to me. Good thing I had developed the internal fortitude as a kid because I only got one or two valentines cards. ha!"

 Female "To turn that around... I think it's a serious issue, but this solution doesn't help. I was the one kid who, despite us having that rule also in the 80's had an empty valentine envelope at school. Kids quickly turn that rule around to "everyone *except*..." Or you get one card from the kid who announces, I only gave one to her because I was forced to...
My personal opinion is that some exercise in compassion and community is far better than the free-for-all cruelty of valentines cards at school."

 Female "I feel like writing to her and telling her that unfortunately things are not always fair in life!"

 Male "I think we should all like everybody's comment regardless of what it is they said And we should all send a valentines card to each other to make it fair"

 Male "He or she obviously lacks the English viewpoint-i.e. All is fair in love, war and cricket!"

 Female "Classrooms can be very cruel places for some children so, yes I ask kids to bring for everyone. We change the focus from the love thing.... to community. This year we are not doing them at all. We are making cards for each other and doing a buddy activity"

 Male "The key difference I think between UK and N.Am approach ...and hence the collective gasp at the teacher's instructions from the English /Australian posters here ...is that in UK (and Oz?) Valentine cards are STRICTLY anonymous. The thrill/fun of it if you actually get cards is that you don't know who sent them and you have to guess. 

 Male "In EU it's not like anyone is personally insulted by not getting a card from anyone else in particular. There is no requirement to send / give a card. Sure some kids might get none and some several, but as it is not remotely something that is turned into a class activity no one is keeping a strict tally - there is no Valentines league table. At worst you may get a bit of a hint to up your attractiveness ante/ be nicer/ take more baths / be less annoying / start wearing deodorant or shaving the nascent moustache etc." 

 "Female I think it's a good thing. It's a nice exercise to have to say something nice to everyone in your class. My mom always made me do a card for everyone, but, then again, she was a kick ass teacher like all of the incredibly dedicated teachers that grace the classrooms at our fine school trying their darndest to raise future nice humans."

 Female "Um yes. She grew up to be an adult who understood the concept of inclusiveness, and as a result, she is raising her son with that value as well, which is then passed on to my children who attend the same school and live in the same community. Obviously that skill wasn't solely cultivated by the inclusion of her classmates in Valentine's Day. But it did provide the opportunity for a discussion around the concepts of good will, and inclusiveness. It doesn't sound like it did her any harm. I'm not sure why you've got such a bee in your bonnet about this now. This ask has been requested by all of your boy's past teachers all the way back to preschool. Have you been charged with the Valentine card task? It is child craft labor as keona wisely pointed out. Maybe he doesn't hand them out this year at school, or he mails them."

​Female "And how about a little sympathy for the mums that are utterly shite at crafts?! Thank you for providing me this forum to speak out about my feelings of inadequacy at having failed my first year in this terrible ordeal! In my daughter's K-class alone, about 250-300 Valentines pieces circulated; some of which were clearly made by a mother with little effort or thought from the child. Where's the authenticity in that? Surely, there are better ways to explore topics of love and friendship in a way that is sensitive to everyone"

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