Knots on Valentine’s Day

Published 3:00 am Saturday, February 13, 2016

The big hatbox covered in red tissue paper and plastered with white paper doilies was an ominous sight. It made my stomach tie up in knots. The sight of it sent my mind whirling with a multitude of excuses to stay home from school on Valentine’s Day.

I started feeling bad the first day the teacher took the Valentine box out of the cloakroom, which was an ill-boding place itself.

The cloakroom was a long narrow hall-like room with doors at both ends. You went in one end to hang up your coat and out the other end to go to your desk.  But the cloakroom had another purpose. It was the torture chamber where children were taken to get their little bottoms spanked with a wooden paddle for their miss-deeds or their hands pulled back and popped with a wooden ruler, once for every spelling word missed.

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I didn’t like getting popped with the ruler but I’d rather get a popping any day than go the Valentine’s Day party.

The Valentine box had a hole on the top for us to drop in the Valentines we were sending to our friends in our room. Then, at the party, the teacher would take the Valentines out, one at time, and call out the names. Some people got a lot of Valentines. Some people didn’t get many at all.

Mama made me get a Valentine for everybody in the room but some mamas didn’t. I picked out a Valentine that I thought each person would like. But I knew that some people wouldn’t pick out a Valentine for me and for a lot of other people in the room.

That made my stomach hurt and my hands get sweaty.

It wasn’t fun to sit there while the teacher called out the same names over and over. And, those same people would walk up to get their Valentines with big ol’ grins on their faces. They would have big piles of Valentines on their desktops and other people would have just few.

I didn’t like that and I didn’t like being at the Valentine party.

I didn’t know until a long time later that those “special” people were putting their own names on Valentines so they would get a lot.

I wasn’t smart enough to know to do that. And, a lot of other little people were either.

There have been a lot of changes in education. Some have worked; some have not.

The new math didn’t work. Common Core’s not working. But one thing that is working is that teachers make sure that every child brings a Valentine for every child in their class. No child is sitting there with a big pile of Valentines while another has only one or two.

And, now no children have to sit at their Valentine parties with knots in their stomachs or little sweaty hands.