By Leila Pagel
February is a weird month. No one is one hundred percent sure how to pronounce it, spelling it is usually a struggle, it is shorter than every other month (supposedly, but it always feels a lot longer), and every once in a while it decides to be a day longer than usual. And of course there’s also Valentine’s Day, an overly commercialized and mainly ignored (or forgotten) holiday.
For most people, the best Valentine’s Day memories are from when they were young, very young. Young enough that Valentine’s Day had meaning. Because to little kids Valentine’s Day means decorated paper bags and lots and lots of candy. And because candy is basically currency for children and because it has the power to control them, fill them with energy, and then bring them down in a crash, Valentine’s Day is one of the most beautiful days of the year for the candy-fixated masses of kindergarteners… until this year.
Due to the pandemic, teachers are having to come up with creative ways to deal with Valentine’s Day with solutions ranging from pretending Valentine’s Day candy was “never a thing” to elaborate socially distanced candy tosses. “Valentine’s Day celebrations are usually a great way to get the students excited and engaged in school again,” said Ms. Take, a teacher at Hyper Hall Elementary School. “During the month of February a lot of students begin to lose interest because it feels to them as if they have been in school forever. Candy distracts them from this and reinvigorates them enough to tide them over until spring break.”
Teachers across the country expressed similar sentiments and because of this, most have decided to celebrate Valentine’s Day with their students (with candy, of course) despite the pandemic. Some teachers have been practicing their basketball skills at student gatherings by having their students stand at a safe distance and then instructing the children to hold open their bags while teachers throw candy into them.
Only a few parents have reported injuries (including one child who got a chipped tooth from getting hit in the mouth by a Jolly Rancher and two others who were bruised by badly aimed tosses), but it is suspected that more will suffer as the festivities increase as Valentine’s Day approaches. “I don’t think the teachers are hitting them on purpose,” said one parent. “Though now that I think about it I suppose only the most disruptive students were injured.” The teachers involved declined to comment.
A child who was hospitalized after being hit in the eye by a Tootsie Roll is in stable condition, but will have to wear protective glasses for at least two months. “I always knew my teacher found me annoying,” said the six-year-old student. “But it wasn’t until he called me a ‘loudmouthed brat’ and nearly knocked me unconscious with a piece of candy that I thought maybe I make him really mad sometimes.”
Other teachers have been using drones to deliver candy to their students' homes. Most teachers have had success with this approach, though a few had to change their tactics when a gang of tiny kindergarten students on a sugar high and armed with Super Soakers took a drone hostage and demanded more candy.
Another common strategy being attempted by teachers is telling students to wrap healthy snacks like carrots and apple slices in cellophane or tinfoil and put them in a decorated bag as if the fruits and vegetables were candy. These well-meaning teachers trying to raise morale (while also looking out for their students’ health) have found that this plan mostly backfires. Attempts have resulted in food fights between siblings who would rather throw broccoli than eat it, and kindergarteners who are grumpier than usual on zoom.
Unfortunately, lawlessness and violence seem to be a recurring theme in a significant number of the Valentine’s Day celebration and some towns are considering shutting down all of these school-led holiday gatherings. “I was initially most worried about the possible spread of the coronavirus,” said Mayor Eeta Pumpquin of Squashville. “But after the local elementary school picnic ended with rival groups of five-year-olds fighting over the value of their sugar currency, I knew I had to crack down before another teacher was bitten to death.”
Chaos aside, students are mostly appreciative of their teachers’ attempts to cheer them up. The teachers also have fun seeing their students happy. “It is so fun to be able to spread joy during these times of crisis,” said Ms. Cheevious. “I am especially happy that this year instead of having to deal with a bunch of kids on a sugar high, I get to watch from the safety of my Zoom box while parents try to make their kids sit still in front of the screen.”
Many teachers have found ways to capture the true spirit of the holiday: candy, gifts, and consumerism. Happy Valentine’s Day!