It’s not easy being Santa Claus.
For one thing, do you have any idea how demeaning it is to have your very existence continually questioned, least of all by some precocious eight-year-old who wants to lord it over her friends?
And it’s not just know-it-all kids. Too many times when I show up at a home on Christmas Eve to deliver presents to good little girls and boys, I’ll be all set to have some milk and cookies only to discover that all that’s left are some crumbs and a dirty glass. Turns out that somebody’s father, not quite believing in me himself, has consumed the snack intended for me, Santa. Sure, the kids will have some unnecessarily manufactured “evidence” of my visit, but they’ll also be left with the impression that I’m a complete slob.
So here’s the point: defying the laws of physics to visit every home across the planet in a single night is hungry work, and I didn’t get this bowl full of jelly by turning down milk and cookies. So, dad, get your own snack and clean up after yourself. Leave mine alone!
And let’s talk about presents, shall we? Up here at the North Pole, the elves are pretty efficient at producing the classics: dolls, trucks, skates, musical instruments, stuffed animals, toboggans, picture books, balls, tops (of course, nobody asks for tops anymore), building blocks, train sets and the like. The rest of the stuff on people’s wish lists we off-shore to China. As a result, when I load up my sleigh in preparation for the annual grand tour, I’m fairly confident that I can literally deliver the goods as requested. As long as you believe in me, and some creepy elf-on-the-shelf hasn’t ratted you out for naughty behaviour, you’re in like Flynn. That’s the deal.
There is, however, one exception…
I count teachers among my most fervent supporters. Unlike most other adults, they continue to believe in ol’ Santa. I’m not entirely sure why. It might be because after spending countless hours practising for the Christmas concert, they’re a bit brainwashed (“mistletoed” as we like to say Poleside). Or maybe it’s just that they believe so deeply in the goodness and promise of the children they teach that believing in me isn’t such a reach. Or maybe it’s just excessive exposure to dry-erase marker fumes. Whatever. The problem is not teachers’ lack of belief in me, it’s what teachers are expecting me to deliver to them on Christmas day.
Teachers typically ask me to give them what their students need, so this Christmas many are asking me to deliver smaller class sizes so they can do their very best work. Other teachers, recognizing the diverse learning needs of their students, want me to provide support for inclusion and counsellors in every school. Some of my greatest supporters are asking me to ensure that every young child has access to junior and full-day kindergarten. Of course, some are also asking me for a raise, although being an apologetic bunch, this tends to be a bit lower on the average teacher’s wish list.
I get it! You don’t have to convince me. These are all entirely justified asks, but guys, they are not something that your old friend Santa can deliver, however nice you’ve been over the past year. My elves are pretty good at making toys, but politics and policy not so much; heck, they aren’t even allowed to vote (with only one of me and a whole lot of them, I’m not much interested in introducing representative democracy back home). And anyway, it’s not like I can box these things up, put a bow on them, shove ’em down your chimney and stick ’em under the tree. I’m Santa Claus, not the minister of education (and don’t get me wrong, I like the minister of education — no one is more likely to believe in me than an ND politician facing a spring election).
So, I’m frustrated, and here’s how it’s going to have to be. You’re going to get off your plum puddings and get these things for yourself. This Christmas and in the months following, you’re going to talk to each other, to your families, to your friends, to neighbours, to candidates of all stripes and to anyone else who will listen and even to those who won’t. You are going to tell them about the daily challenges you are facing in your classrooms and how those things you are asking for would improve public education and help make Alberta a better province. You’re going to get political. And by pulling together, we are going to pull off a Christmas miracle that will last the entire year and beyond — just like in the movies.
So do this and I’ll make sure you get something else on your list — how about a nice top? I’ve got a warehouse full of them.
I’m Santa Claus and I believe in you.
Leave snacks. ❚
When he’s not delivering tops and other popular toys to the good little boys and girls of the world, Santa Claus moonlights as the executive secretary of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.