Is it just me or has celebrating birthdays in school got bigger and bigger over the years? There’s a fine line between celebrating a student’s day and fitting everything else into what for everyone else is a normal school day. Parents understandably want their child to feel special on their birthday, but when you have 25+ students in your room, that’s 25 interrupted days.
For the last few years of my teaching I was more proactive in explaining what was and was not acceptable for a student’s birthday. It didn’t always work – sometimes parents just showed up with doughnuts or cupcakes in the middle of a math lesson – but having some guidance beforehand meant that those occasions were the exception rather than the rule.
Remember it’s a special day
OK, so you probably didn’t have a hard time falling asleep last night, but if it’s a student’s birthday today, they did and they are going to be excited. And the worst thing you can do? Not be ready. And by ready, I mean saying ‘Happy Birthday, Susan!’ as soon as they enter the room, at the very least. I always told my students they looked taller, asked about their morning, and gave them a hug. It shows your students that you care, and that their day is important to you too.
When you get your data sheets at the beginning of the year, while you are making your birthday list, add those names and dates to your reminders app or calendar app. Be sure to check the app every day before you leave school so that you can make sure you haven’t missed any upcoming birthdays. Sure, Gregg has been telling you for the last 84 days that his birthday is on May 2nd, but Toby hasn’t mentioned his because a) he doesn’t know, or b) no one in his family is particularly excited about it.
Nothing crazy here, but I liked to put out one or two gold star battery candle tea lights that I found at the dollar store. They only live on the desk for one day, but it lets your student and the other students know that today is special.
A small treat
A small treat. Not a big gift. Just something that lets your student know that you care for them and that you recognize today is a special day and is waiting on their desk when they arrive. I always gave something that I knew they would use in school, an eraser or fun pencil. Sometimes there are small finds at the dollar store, like these birthday blowers. But remember, whatever you put out for one student, you need to put out EXACTLY the same for all the others when it is their birthdays. So be sure to buy enough!
Cupcakes or doughnuts?
Or neither? This one can be tricky, and your school may have a policy in place that takes care of it. But having a plan ahead of time helps you when parents ask how many doughnuts to bring in. The best way I found to deal with this was to ask parents to come in at lunchtime when we were all in the cafeteria, and hand out the treat 10 minutes before we left. That was plenty of time to eat the sticky treat, and did not disrupt our instructional time.
It’s not a birthday without a hat!
There are lots of birthday hats out there. In a pinch I would use a birthday paper plate and glue it to a sentence strip! But be sure never to run out with these editable birthday crowns where you personalize with the student’s name and a message from you. I would put these out for the birthday student instead of morning work – that way it didn’t get in the way of our regular schedule. Plus they can choose from dinosaurs, superheroes or unicorns!
Don’t forget to sing!
Be sure to end your student’s special day with a version of the happy birthday song! Whether it’s traditional, cha-cha’d up or features Baby Shark, sing it with gusto!