A short history of Valentine’s Day for teachers

As with many holidays that have existed for millennia, the true history of Valentine's Day is a bit murky.

The main theory of Valentine's Day

While there were three known St. Valentines that the Catholic tradition, the most widely accepted version connects Valentine's Day with the Saint Valentine who served under the Roman Emperor Claudius in the third century A.D. The Emperor held that single men make much better warriors that those who have wives and children, so according to his needs, he passed a law which banned marriage for all young men.

A priest called Valentine believed this was wrong because it was against God's commands and against his ultimate law, which is love. That is why he continued to marry young couples in secrecy.

While what the priest Valentine has done might be according to God's wishes, it was undoubtedly against the Emperor's command. As soon as he discovered the betrayal, he executed Valentine.

Two centuries later, the Vatican canonised Valentine for his bravery and dedicated the February 14th to him.

Possible pagan roots of Valentine's Day

According to the religious tradition, the middle of February was chosen for Valentine’s Day celebration to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death. On the other hand, there are theories that the Catholic church was guided by very practical goals when choosing the date for the St. Valentine's holiday. It might have occurred to replace a significant Roman pagan festival dedicated to the Roman god of agriculture Faunus, and to Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of the Roman state and empire - in their honour, a Roman pagan festival called Lupercalia used to take place on February 15th.

On this date, an order of Roman pagan priests called Luperci gathered in a sacred cave where they believed Romulus and Remus were brought up by a female wolf - Lupa. Luperci would sacrifice a goat and a dog. Then they would use the strips of the goat's hide to touch Roman women, who embraced the practice because they believed it would make them more fertile. According to the legend, they would later help the locals pair up by pulling women's names from an urn and connecting them with bachelors; these pairings often resulted in marriages.

According to this theory, Lupercalia was outlawed as an "unchristian" practice in the same century that St. Valentine's Day was declared by Pope Gelasius.

February Romance

Another theory of why we celebrate Valentine's Day on this particular date is rooted in the fact that the middle of February is a beginning of the mating season for many birds in England. Of course, male birds sing during their courtship. Is there a more romantic reason to dedicate a holiday to love and romance than bird's song?

We know that Valentine greetings were popular as far as the Middle Ages. In 1415, Charles the Duke of Orleans wrote a Valentine poem to his wife while he was imprisoned after being captured in the Battle of Agincourt. That is the oldest known written valentine which was saved to this date.

Remember that the story of a holiday doesn't have to be completely clear to talk about it in class. In fact, it can be an advantage for teaching, as it can show how multi-layered the human history really is. Choose your Valentine's story and how deep you're going to explore the theories of its origins according to your student's age, but don't forget the essence of it - in all cases, it is the celebration of love. 

Five ways to honor Black History Month in your classroom

Black History Month is an annual celebration of history, culture and the civil rights movement of the African diaspora. The United States, Canada, United Kingdom and the Netherlands are the countries that officially honour Black History Month in their classrooms. However, as multi-culturalism, civil rights of minorities, oppression and racism are essential topics anywhere on the globe, Black History Month be used by teachers worldwide to point out these important topics.

Here are five ways to honour the Black History Month in your classroom.

Idea #1: Listen to and explore music created by black history idols 

Blues, Gospel, Jazz, Soul, Hip-Hop - these are all the musical trademarks of African culture. Instead of following the historical timeline, start your musical exploration with what is the most familiar to your students, and that is probably going to be Hip-Hop. There is a numerous list of rap songs dealing with black history and rights, from old-school to current hits of stars like Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar.

If you're working with younger students, it's probably too early to expose them to the world of hip-hop, but you can still use it to introduce the children to the fun practice of breakdance.

Idea #2: Get to know Martin Luther King

Marthin Luther King was perhaps the most important figure of the original civil rights movement. His famous inspiring speech "I Have a Dream" is a perfect subject to be studied in class, since it is so poetic and vivid. Talk to your students about their own dreams for this world, and how they would like to change it.

Idea #3: Get to know Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks was a woman who one day quit obeying the rule that black people had to sit at the back of the bus. With this simple act, she ignited a revolution. Her example is the perfect opportunity to discuss the separation policies. Create a thought experiment: how would the students with, for example, blonde hair feel if they were made to sit at the back of the classroom? You can also watch a very quality TV film called "The Rosa Parks Story".

Idea #4: Watch Black History Month inspired movies 

There are many movies which are suitable to watch during Black History Month. Different films are appropriate for different age groups, and because of the often violent nature of the struggle for rights and freedom, most of them are intended for the ages of 13 and up. There are exceptions such as the Scholastic Storybook DVD "March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World", (4+), "A Ballerina's Tale" (9+), and "Remember the Titans" (10+).

Idea #5: Make Traditional Biscuits

To add some sweetness to often-bitter topics of the Black History Month, bake a traditional sweet treat such as sweet potato biscuits. While munching away, have a light talk about the civil rights struggles within the local communities of your area.


Six fun ways to teach your students about Chinese New Year

The Chinese New Year celebration is one of the most important holidays in China. Following a lunar calendar, the Chinese New Year occurs on a different date every year, but always between January 21st and February 20th. This year, the Chinese New Year falls on February 16th, when the year of the Dog will replace the year of the Rooster.

Celebrating Chinese New Year in your classroom doesn't just mean another holiday festival. It means honoring diversity as well. Opening children's minds to different cultures at an early age does wonder for their cognitive, social, cultural and educational development and well-being.

Besides, the Chinese New Year includes so many inspiring elements that it would be a pity not to incorporate them into your class. Let us examine five ideas on how to bring the Chinese New Year to life with your students.

Idea #1: Tell a traditional Chinese story

According to Chinese customs, every year is dedicated to one of the animals from the Chinese zodiac. The twelve animals are Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. The year 2018 will be under the governance of the Dog. There is a rich heritage of traditional legends and stories associated with each animal, so making them come to life in your class setting is a great way to introduce your students to some basics of Chinese culture.

Idea #2: Crafting traditional ornaments

The color red is a symbol of good fortune and prosperity in China. Therefore, red paper decorations and traditional Chinese lanterns are an essential part of the New Year celebration. Lanterns are especially attractive, with designs varying from very simple to more elaborate. That means you can modify the task of making them according to different age groups.

Idea #3: Learn fun facts about the Chinese New Year

Many of us have no idea what happens in cultural celebrations such as Chinese New Year. A fun and educational solution to the gap in our knowledge is to learn some fun facts about Chinese New Year along with our students. One way to do this is to search the wealth of knowledge on the world wide web, collaborate some facts and then present them to your students. If you have older students you could even get them to search for their own fun facts. If you want a no prep option to save you time then check out my Chinese New Year Fun Fact Booklet by clicking here.

Idea #4: New Year sweeping

While expecting the New Year, the Chinese traditionally clean their houses - this is a ritual which serves to get rid of the last year’s bad luck. In that name, you can share simple tidying up and decorating tasks among your students. You can elegantly combine that with the paper crafting segment of the celebration. Make sure they understand that, for the Chinese, this is not a simple chore, but a symbolic act. And remember - don't clean the classroom when the New Year arrives since you wouldn't want to sweep away the freshly landed good luck!

Idea #5: The symbolic dragon

The well-known Chinese dragon is an invaluable part of every Chinese New Year festival. Unlike the aggressive, fire-breathing Western dragon, the Chinese dragon is a spiritual symbol of good fortune. After revealing this to your students, you can proceed to make a paper dragon puppet. It can be an effort that spans over several days. As with the lanterns, there are simpler and more advanced projects for making paper dragons, with the easiest one probably being the paper-chain dragon.

Idea #6: Learn some words in Chinese

The New year celebration is a perfect opportunity to learn how to say "Hello", "Goodbye", "Thank you", or other basic words in (Mandarin) Chinese. The final lesson can be learning to say: "Xin nian kuai le", which naturally means - Happy New Year!

Giving Thanks And Exploring Solitude This November

Here in New Zeland November looks a little different. Thanksgiving is not a holiday that is celebrated here, but as an international teacher-author, the whole concept of Thanksgiving intrigues me just like a curious book looking at straight your soul when you enter a bookstore does. Well, this month I have experienced curiosity for both the holiday of Thanksgiving and a curious book. Let's start with the book. Yesterday morning I was browsing around the shops with my beautiful mini-me when a stray book caught my attention and wouldn't let it go. It was a book entitled Solitude. The title itself captured me with how peaceful it's simplicity was. I am a simplicity seeker. I live for stolen moments of solitude in between my love of being around my family. 

The concept of being a simplicity seeker is foreign to many folks who work online as I do. It is very hard between the bings of emails and dings of social media to find moments of solitude nowadays. Fortunately, for now, I have power over the use of my time on technology. I spend the majority of my screen time doing what I love best, creating. I love and am very thankful for my job as a teacher-author as I get to use the powers of technology for good without having to get too consumed in the whole social media world of the online web. I am in awe of some teacher-authors who can manage all the various forms of social media alongside their interests outside of work. However, for me, you will notice my absence on many platforms. I love Pinterest, blogging, and the occasional FB post. The rest of my social media presence is very simple as I get too overwhelmed with all the various forms of social media. This passion for simplicity is evident in my work, with a big emphasis on my products being put on not visually overwhelming students when it comes to learning. Simple, clean fonts, and engaging, relevant graphics is where it's at for me.

For Thanksgiving this year I'm getting in the overseas spirit and writing out five things I'm grateful for this year. 

My Five 'Things' Of Thanks 

#1 My Family 
I am very thankful to be spending this November as a Mumma bear. It has always been my dream to be a mum (yes, we spell mum funny here) and now I am, and I couldn't be happier (or more tired). 

#2 My Solitude 
I am very thankful for all the stolen moments of solitude I get daily. When I'm in the car waiting to pick someone up. When I get to go for a lone walk (even for 10 seconds). When I get to be alone with my thoughts in a nice warm bath. I love spending those stolen moments without my phone, otherwise, I find that technology steals those precious moments of solitude in return for the chaos that is being connected 24/7. 

#3 The Kindness of Humans 
I am very thankful for the small smiles shot my way during moments of my life path crossing that of a stranger. For the cheerful "morning" cheers I get when I wonder with my baby along the beach first thing. 

#4 The Christmas Spirit 
I am very thankful that the spirit of Christmas is so alive and prevalent. I'm not into consumerism by any means but the spirit of Christmas heck yes sign me up. After a few months of feeble health, the energy of Christmas has pulled me out of a terrible place and surrounded me with light and laughter.

#5 Nature 
I am very thankful that I live somewhere so surrounded by nature. The bird's noise calms my soul while the freshly cut grass keeps my sense alive. 

Diwali; The Festival of Lights

Wow. October is here. Where did the last 10 months go? I guess being a mama bear really does make time fly. October is a super fun month for many reasons. In American culture, October is dominated by Halloween. Trick or treat anyone? Here in New Zealand Halloween isn't all that big. I mean we try. But our trying is nothing compared to the scale of Halloween that is seen over in the U.S.A. New Zealand is a pretty relaxed country which is great, but it does mean costume party attire is more common than not met with stubbies (often male shorts that are too short depending on the angle), jandals (flip-flops), and a singlet (vest) as opposed to hippies, wizards, and minions no matter what theme you are going for. Maybe that is why Halloween isn't so big over here. **sigh**

Although costume parties are not at the forefront of October for us Kiwis we are lucky to be such a  multi-cultural society. We have lots going on in the month of October to celebrate cultures from all over the world. One of my favorite events of the year that happens to fall in October this year is Diwali. The festival of lights. 

Diwali is a beautiful cultural celebration that is full of beautiful colors and life. Here are some fun fact extracts from my Diwali booklet that helps kids learn all about the celebration of Diwali.

Fun fact #1 
In India, Diwali is the most commonly celebrated holiday.

Fun fact #2 
Diwali marks the Hindu New Year and it lasts for 5 days.

Fun fact #3 

Both men and woman often wear new clothes for Diwali as a symbol of the New Year.

Loved what you read? To save yourself time this Diwali click HERE to browse my Diwali booklet. 

What Sports Can Teach Us About Behavior Management

Sports. They seem to be getting less and less of a focus in the classroom in between this test and that. But sports are detrimental to developing youth who will grow into respectful adults. Here's why. Sports teach us many concepts such as: 

+ teamwork 
+ that it is OK to lose 
+ that it is OK to win 
+ that determination and hard work will get you to where you want to be 
+ collaboration is better than a competition 
+ a goal isn't always achieved in the same way we thought it would be achieved 
+ that sometimes we need some time out 
+ if you fall down, pick yourself right back up 

These concepts are seen in the classroom on a day-to-day basis. With fewer sports going on, kids are starting to become less team focused as a result. It's all individual testing opposed to group explorations like it used to be in the good old days. 

So what are we as teachers to do? A great way to incorporate sports attitudes in the classroom is to implement sports into your behavior management system. Encourage your students to see themselves as part of a bigger entity. You could do this by: 

+giving your students player of the day awards 
+talking to your students about what makes a good team player 
+taking some time to allow your students to research their favorite sports player and then to compare themselves using a Venn diagram 
+using sports as a metaphor in your day-to-day teaching 
+having a sports themed behavior clip chart 

If you have any more ideas on how you could incorporate sports then feel free to leave your idea below. 

Finding Yourself This Summer

The term 'finding yourself' is one often met with questionable stares. Who is this hippy and what do they want from my sanity? Although I may be 50% hippy (and rising) I'm not here to take your sanity, I'm here to help you find it. After a tough school year on your emotions, you are bound to need some inner love time. But where do you start? Here are three ideas to get you started.

Idea #1 - Declutter 

Physical clutter can be symbolic of emotional clutter that is burning in your heart. Maybe you took on too much with after school activities and suddenly your garage is more cluttered than it has ever been? Slowly things build up and clutter forms. It takes a focused effort of tackling the clutter with full force to break the cycle of clutter. Be careful though. If you want to declutter you will need to allow yourself plenty of time to do so. Because our physical environment is linked to our mental state going through our belongings can bring up all sorts of emotions. Maybe get a friend over to support you and you could help them too.

Idea #2 - Find a New Hobby 

Class is dismissed for the school year. Your mind and body are no longer required to be at school full time.  Embrace the freedom. What did you spend the whole school year wishing you had more time for? The time is now; so dig out those cookbooks, workout gear, or TV remote and go get em' tiger.

Idea #3 - Reflect on the Year That Was 

We do everything to try to get our students to think as reflective learners. "So what have we learned about maths today kiddos?" Yet when it comes to personal reflection we are often too consumed with the idea that we don't have time for that. Now that you can take a breather, it is a great time to think back to the school year that was and give yourself credit for achievements you made and think forward to how you can tackle things differently next time on other things.