The perfect Christmas gifts for the student/teacher/principal in your life

You can buy the iPod, but here are the gifts that will truly improve your school and home life in 2008

Principal’s Page
By Jeff Reaburn, SHDHS

As this is likely the last column I will write before Christmas, I thought maybe it would be appropriate to adopt a Christmas theme for this week’s column.
As Christmas approaches, my family members frequently ask me what I would like for Christmas, and I usually have great difficulty answering this question because there is nothing that I really need and the things that I want cannot be wrapped and put under the Christmas tree. For me, Christmas is about spending time with family and friends, and the important gifts are health and happiness, not toys or tools. I get far more pleasure from giving to others than from receiving gifts myself – maybe that just means I’m getting old.
However, there are lots of things I could suggest as gifts for students. I’m sure their Christmas lists include cell phones and iPods, computers and clothing, video games and gift cards. And while I’m sure that any of these things would be appreciated, I don’t know that they will really make their lives any happier or better. Instead, I would suggest that parents consider the following gifts that are much cheaper but potentially much more valuable.
First, continue to give them your love, all of the time, even when they are driving you crazy. Give them encouragement, and praise them when they do well, but hold them accountable when they make mistakes. Be involved in their lives – know who their friends are and what they like to do when they get together. Give them freedom and the opportunity to earn your trust, but set reasonable expectations for their conduct. Again, when they make mistakes, talk to them about the mistakes and help them to learn from their own errors in judgement. Let them know that we all have lapses in judgement from time to time, but that the important thing is to learn from our errors and not make the same mistakes again. Finally, listen to them – we often emphasize the need to talk to young people, but it is more important that we listen to them to try to understand their values, their beliefs, their goals, and dreams.
To you students out there, however many there may be who read this column, there are some things you should give to your parents as well. First of all, keep in mind that unlike you, they don’t know everything yet and they will likely make mistakes from time to time. Be patient with them and give them the opportunity to explain to you what they expect of you. Give them the chance to be a part of your life, to spend time with you, and to talk to you, without rolling your eyes or storming off to your room. Give them respect and treat them the way you would like to be treated, even when you don’t see eye to eye. Accept what they have to offer and show that you appreciate everything that they do for you.
There are some gifts I would like to give to my staff as well if I could. I would give them more patience, lots of it, to help them deal with the ever-changing moods and needs of teenagers, and especially the issues that arise in the lives of teenagers that have nothing to do with school but seem to take centre-stage in the classroom. I would give them an extra dollop of understanding as well, to help them recognize that in the lives of teenagers, school is often not the first priority, and that they are still kids after all, even though some of them inhabit adult-size bodies. And finally, I would give them huge amounts of energy and enthusiasm to match that of their students. (And maybe a whip and a chair for those days when school seems like a three-ring circus.)
And not to let myself off the hook, I must say that school administrators need all of the above, perhaps in even larger doses.
Finally, let me close this off by asking everyone to stay safe over the Christmas holidays and to do whatever you can to make the lives of others richer, happier, and more fulfilling. Please keep in mind that no matter how difficult our lives seem from time to time, we are blessed to be living in a wonderful country, enjoying a standard of living of which billions of others in this world can only dream. So please continue to support the Huron County Christmas Bureau, the Salvation Army, the local food banks, and the countless other organizations that help those in need both here in Canada and around the world.
Enjoy your holidays and savour the time you have with family and friends. Relax and partake in all that the season has to offer. Merry Christmas and happy New Year to all.