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Rethinking Elf on The Shelf

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This week, I got a text from another mom. “The teacher isn’t allowing students to share about Elf on the Shelf anymore. Seth is devastated.”

Our children are in the same class, but she usually has the inside track on school news. My heart sank thinking of my daughter’s excitement about our family elf, Maple. “Do you know why?” I asked.

Every day in her online classroom, my daughter finds an opportunity to give classmates a virtual tour of our messy house before pointing out Maple’s hiding place. Overhearing her delight has been a highlight of my work conference calls (along with my Zoom tuxedo, of course).

The pandemic has been hard, especially for little ones sitting in virtual classrooms. Elf on the Shelf has helped her connect meaningfully with classmates this winter season. And that has brought me joy.

I understand why the teacher made her decision, no matter how abrupt. Finances are a concern for many families, especially because of pandemic-related issues. Having or not having an Elf can create more stress than what it’s worth.

Representation is also important. Not everyone celebrates Christmas or finds cheer in elves. An alternative might be a laminated Where’s Waldo character or a hibernating bear to color and share. It could be distributed in the weekly homework packet and might be a simple way to support our children, teachers and our communities.

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