The first time I made the Christmas bulletin board of generous reindeer "heads", it was on the very first day of December 4 years ago. I couldn't wait to fill them with all kinds of goodies for my lovely class of second graders. Those kids were the best (as they are every year) and I wanted to give them some little tokens to express how much I appreciate them. As it was, I got a little carried away, and I put something in their reindeer heads at the end of every day. (provided that they followed some behavior/ work habit guidelines I had set up) Even though these students were very good, I noticed that their enthusiasm for this project was waning. By the third week, it was a though they expected those treats.
Plus, someone was dipping into the treats before it was time to do so. Who would do that? Who would ruin a good thing? Who could be such a grinch? Well, that's what I was thinking at first. I automatically assumed that the suspect must be someone in my student group. They were the only ones who knew about the bulletin board, right? I hated thinking that- they were such good kids- but who else could it be? Since it was only a few days before Christmas, I thought I'd let it go and continued filling the "heads" with treats and re-filling those that had been sneakily emptied.
Flash forward the following December. I wasn't ready to discard the Christmas bulletin board idea. I re-assessed what was good about it and what could be improved. When I thought about it more, I had a different perspective than I had in the past. What if the sticky finger treat taker was a child who didn't get enough to eat at home and was always hungry? What if another student from another classroom heard about our giving bulletin board through the grapevine and decided to treat themselves? What if I was way off base and it wasn't a student at all?
Instead of trying to figure out who the culprit was, I decided to use the board to show my students appreciation in a more limited way, to get my students involved in showing their appreciation for other school personnel, and to add a way for anyone to help themselves to a free pick-me-up.
The kids made their reindeer heads (with a student name on each one) and I hung them up on the decorated bulletin board.. We brainstormed about school personnel and what they do for us to make school a pleasant and safe place. (principal, secretary, lunch room staff, nurse, crossing guard, custodian, etc.) We made a list of these people and put their title/name on separate slips of paper. We made enough slips of paper to equal the number of students in our class (there were many duplicates, but that's OK) and put all of these slips into a brown bag. Each student drew a slip of paper from the bag. That was the person they were to write a thank you letter to or make a thank you card for. When the task was done, they put the letter/card into their own reindeer head. We wrote a blanket letter to all of the personnel inviting them to come to the classroom and empty the "heads" to find their "treats" (in addition to the kids' letters/cards, I put some candy in). The children and I distributed the blanket letters (I made copies of the original) to the recipients. This was done the first week of December. (no treats for students this first week)
By the second week of December most of the "heads" had been empty and we talked about how they thought those who were less fortunate may be spending the holidays. We discussed ways they could help those people through community projects or as individuals. Also, we had a dialogue going on about Random Acts of Kindness and how everyone could use a "pick me up" or something to lift their spirits every so often. I made one more reindeer head and called it "Grab Some Goodness Gunther". I put a little treat in each one of their own reindeer heads and a couple in the "Gunther" reindeer head. I told the students that the "Gunther" reindeer head was for any random acts of kindness they wished to do and anyone in the classroom or who had visited our classroom could help themselves to its contents. Suggestions were that students donate their own treats to it, students put a little candy from home in it, write a few kind words on a note, and absolutely no money or toys.
Third week...continue doing the Random Acts of kindness, no "treats" in the student reindeer until the last day of school prior to the Christmas break. On the last day, fill the "heads" with goodies for each student to take home.
By the way, having "Gunther" around seemed to eliminate the "sticky finger" syndrome! To get all of the parts needed for these 4 different bulletin boards and instructions for reindeer head making, go to https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/More-Than-4-Reindeer-Ready-Bulletin-Boards-Kit-2220173