Diary of a First-Year Teacher: A Key to Unlocking a Child’s Imagination

A 22-year-old educator in rural Mississippi shares how whimsy and the holiday season has inspired her six-year-old students.

The holiday season can be magical for children while inside the classroom and out. (Photo: Graeme Montgomery)

Each week, an anonymous first-grade teacher will share her confessions, musings, struggles, and successes during the first year of her teaching career in rural Mississippi.


The holidays are here and the classroom decorations are up. The anticipation of the holidays raised my spirits enough last week to inspire a full-blown Christmas-decorated door for the weeks leading up to winter break.

It seems that people have a natural radar for holiday decorating because as I pulled out the tinsel and wrapping paper after school, lingering students kept popping into my room to help me. Before I knew it, I had a fleet of ten want-to-be elves.

As my students drifted into our classroom the next day, they each stopped, bewitched in front of my festive door. Pretty soon my class was a silent pack in the doorway, their eyes glued to the door, simply staring in awe at the Christmas decor. I chuckled at their simple amusement, recalling my own fascination with holiday magic. I remember spending hours of the holiday season starring at decorations. There is something magnificent about them, because Christmas is whimsical. Children love whimsy; it is an invitation to their imagination.

More: Op-Ed: For First-Year Teachers, It’s Sink or Swim

As I thought about this, I realized, with the exception of my newly dressed-up door, my classroom completely lacked whimsy. In an effort to be a transformational teacher, focused on the academics and skill development of my students, I had been fairly critical of “cute teaching.” You know, the Pinterest teacher. With cute worksheets, a themed classroom, and immaculate bulletin boards. I thought who has time for that fluff?

Of course, it would be nice for my handouts and projects to look like they came off of a back-to-school display at Anthropologie, but it would be nothing but aesthetics. I thought it'd be a waste of my time. However, seeing my students' faces in the light of whimsy, I am reconsidering. There is a transfixing power behind capturing a child's imagination.

So I am going to use the holiday season to sprinkle a little whimsy into my room and my lessons, and see whether it is worth the time. I have spent much of my time focused on my students' goals and planting the seeds for plans of college. Now I wonder about the impact it has on my students if they don't have the same whimsy in their school day as children in more affluent districts?

I wonder if the captivation of some seemingly unnecessary cute fluff may make a bigger difference than I had thought. I don't know, but if I can capture my students' attention during a lesson the way some tinsel and tape did on the door, I can only imagine the effect will be positive.

These are solely the author's opinions and do not represent those of TakePart, LLC or its affiliates.

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