Monday, December 5, 2011

Everything I Learned about Education I learned from Christmas Cartoons

It's been a little bit since I have written one of my favorite types of posts and I thought the holidays would be the perfect time to share what my favorite Christmas Cartoons have taught me about education. Here are 5 of my all-time favorites in no particular order.

Frosty Snowman

I have always had a soft spot for this cartoon and will go out of my way to watch it when it is on TV. The part of the show that stands out to me is the Magician with the magic hat that brings Frosty to life. To me, he represents all of the worst things about some teachers. He tells the kids to never question an adult and to do what he says because he is older. Kids to him, are an annoyance. The possibility of Frosty coming to life is not possible and the kids are crazy for even thinking it possible.

Kids have some of the most amazing ideas and teachers should be asking them their opinion more often than not. The Magician, like all bad guys, are driven by greed and they do not want anything to do with children. I know some of the teachers. These are people that are just in it for the paycheck at this point and kids are a constant bother. Frosty showed me the fun kids can have when they are allowed to be a little bit silly. Beware of becoming a Magician and, under not circumstances, throw a way a top hat. You never know how magical it might be.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer 

Now, I know this is not technically a cartoon, but the claymation is amazing and it is too great not to write about. I think this is the easiest show to write about for this post. Rudolph being an outcast is something all of us have felt once in our life time. I actually want to focus on the Misfit Toys.

When you look around your classroom, it is sometimes very easy to identify those Misfit Toys. These are the kids that haven't found their place in school. Our job as teacher is to help those students find the place where they will excel based on the talents they have. They might be suggesting they take an art class after watching them doodle in their notebook or leaving a book of comic design on their desk. It could be letting a student rap part of his assignment after hearing him rap during lunch. Everyone is a Misfit Toy at some point in their life and I think a teacher is a person in the perfect position to help those students find their passion. I had some special English teachers that pointed me in the direction of Drama my Senior year and I'm eternally grateful. An education student pointed me towards education in college. Students are often looking for just one person to show interest and help them. They are very much like the Misfit Toys. As a teacher, let's play Santa and find a place for these kids. 

A Charlie Brown Christmas

This lesson is very similar to the Misfit Toys idea. This sad little Christmas tree just needs some love to truly show everyone what it could really be. There are students around the country that are waiting to be loved, but they are being taught by Charlie Browns. These teachers are good intentioned, but they need a little help. Sometimes, we need to help those students who are not in are class because they might have someone who just doesn't know how to reach them.

There are also plenty of Lucy's out there as well. These are people that are focused on the bells, whistles and buzz words surrounding education, but have failed to see what the real meaning of education is supposed to be. Linus reminds everyone about the meaning of Christmas and I think it is important for teachers to try and remind everyone that education is about students, not test scores, politicians, technology and the other things being talked about right now. Be a Linus for your school and advocate for the students who cannot speak up for themselves. 

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

I want so badly to write a paragraph that is all about Michigan Governor Rick Snyder cutting the education budget this past year, but that would be too easy.  Instead, I want to focus on the ending of the cartoon that gets me every time.

The Grinch thinks that he will ruin the morning of all the little Whovillians (sp?). However, the sun comes up and the entire group is up and singing. He is shocked and confused. He was sure that Christmas was all about presents and the roast beast. His hear then grows three sizes and he brings all of the presents back to town.

I look at lesson planning the same way. Some people are obsessed with technology and the role they want it to play in their class. (This coming from the guy with the class set of iPads) I'm an advocate for technology in the classroom, but not at the expense of the lesson. Lesson planning needs to be at the core of every class. My lessons are designed with the skills and content in place first, then I see how technology can enhance it. Some are trying to build lessons with the technology first and the content and skills second. While I would be sad if a Grinch came in and took all of my toys away, I would still be happy to have my job and teach my students because I know my content is strong with or without an iPad. It's ok to want the iPad or Smartboard, but remember that the lesson is the real important part of the teaching day.

Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire 

Christmas would not be the same without The Simpsons. This was their first full length episode after doing shorts on the Tracy Ulman Show. I was only 10 years old, but I remember watching this and becoming addicted. It's as funny in 2011 as it was in 1989. Bart gets a tattoo and Marge needs to spend the Christmas money to get it removed. Homer did not get the bonus he thought was coming, so he gets a job as a Santa. He ends up gambling the money away at the dog track looking to hit it big. As they walk through the parking lot, the dog he bet on, Santa's Little Helper, is kicked out by his owner and joins the Simpson family. Homer brings the dog home and everyone is happy.

What did I learn from this? Well, some of the best things come when you least expect it. The best part of my job are the little surprises that happen every week. The student that learns something new about themselves or the student who makes a connection to our readings and their life. The little thank you note from a parent or student for something I didn't realize was so important. When life is at its lowest point, nice things are bound to happen and that is why I love teaching. The Simpsons provide me joy every day. Some may say they have jumped the shark, but they still get me laughing a few times an episode without fail. Their first full episode was the beginning of an amazing show.

These are the five shows that have meant the most to me as a child and as an adult. I look at them now and I can't wait to share them with my son. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas.


  1. Best Christmas post so far I've read! Thank you for the gift of your blog and friendship which have both brought so much joy and laughter into my life. This virtual world is a bit crazy and unbelievable at times because it really makes the world flat and you meet incredible people and educators like you that really are blessings :-)

  2. I love it! Good to remember it's not all about the roast beast:)!

  3. I love this post. I am sure I have a Christmas post in me, too. Look out world, I have been inspired!

    Laurie Fowler
    Tuscaloosa, AL

  4. Fantastic post. It's good to be reminded about the reasons for the work we do. You are a very effective Linus. Thanks for the inspiration.

  5. That was brilliant! I'll never watch those movies the same way! Thanks!


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