Valentines from Canada!!!

Valentines Day.

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

When I was little, it was a holiday I dreaded. I loved addressing all my cards and having little candies ready to give away.

But horrible thoughts loomed.

“What if I don’t get back as many Valentines as I give away?”

Or worse . . . “What if I don’t get any???”

It was a possibility. This was in the bad old days before the invention of class lists and valentines for all. With my very own eyes I’d seen classmates collapse in tears because their VRR (Valentine Receiving Receptacle), carefully made with construction paper as a class activity and taped over the edge of their desk (like a Christmas stocking hung by the chimney with care, only heart-shaped), was cruelly EMPTY at the end of the day.

It’s not something you forget.

So I still dread Valentine’s Day.

Horrible thoughts loom.

Lucky for me, last week ended well. Fourth graders at the Whitney Junior Public School in Toronto, Ontario,IMG-20140207-03154IMG-20140207-03155where snow days for inclement weather have not yet been invented, sent me the sweetest letters:scan0001

So this week, with no Valentines flooding my Valentine Receiving Receptacle, and with the hope of receiving any rapidly diminishing, I dashed off an email to their teacher, “Do you think your students would mind if I post their letters on Valentine’s Day and pass them off as Valentines?  . . . Do you think one of your students would mind drawing me colorful artwork to go with the letters? Maybe a Valentine, even?” It was as utterly desperate as it sounds. Believe me.

His reply: “We never had this whole Valentine’s Day thing in the Netherlands where I grew up, maybe that’s why according to UNICEF the children in the Netherlands are the happiest in the world.”

Then I received not one piece of artwork.

But a trove of them:Valentines

They made Valentines for the characters in ALVIN HO!!!

Wow. It’s the BEST VALENTINE’S DAY EVER!!!

THANK YOU, Mr. van Hoeijen’s Amazing Fourth Graders!!! You’re SUPER-DUPER FANTASTIC AND WONDERFULLY KIND AND THOUGHTFUL!!!!!!!

And here’s a little interview with their teacher, Mr. Bert van Hoeijen, who is from the Netherlands and can read in Dutch to his students whenever he feels like it:

How did you come across Alvin Ho? And why did you choose to read him to your class?
Ms. Soares, a colleague from another school introduced me to Alvin. I thought the book was humorous and would interest many students so they would start reading more themselves. There are also many things in your books we can talk about in class. Just like good readers make connections, visualise, infer, etc. while they are reading we talk about your stories in class while I’m reading them.

Did you do a book project or activities with Alvin?
We made organised lists and PDKs in class. We also made Valentine cards today for our favourite Alvin Ho character.

Is your school a Dutch school? (You had mentioned reading books in Dutch.)
I teach in a Canadian Anglophone school. I read a book to the class that was written in Dutch, but when I read it out loud, I tell the story in English or none of the students would understand me 🙂

What languages are your students learning at school?Â
In grade four we learn English and we start learning French.

What languages do they speak at home?
Most speak English at home but we have some who know gibberish, French, Tagalog (nannies helped), Farsi, Hebrew, Japanese, Korean, Manderin, Italian, and Spanish at different levels.
How did you end up teaching in Canada?
I visited Canada a few times during my last year of university and I fell in love with it so I moved here and started teaching a year later.
How is this school different from the school you attended in the Netherlands?
I love teaching here. I have very talented and kind students in my class. I do think students have to do more tests and homework than we had.
Happy Valentine’s Day EVERYONE!!!
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