This week’s assignment is to write about special things that have happened around Groundhog Day.
Since I spent twenty-eight years teaching elementary school students, I’ve probably spent more time dwelling on this pseudo holiday than people in other professions. A good chunk of time in a primary grade classroom is spent teaching about time concepts (telling time, as well as the passing of time, and learning about days, weeks, months, years, and special days), so Groundhog Day always gets at least a passing nod in February. I suppose it gives us something to look forward to in that stretch between New Year’s Day and Valentine’s Day. Chinese New Year is in there sometimes, but the date varies (this year it’s February 19) so the day when we learned whether we would have a longer or shorter winter marked the first “holiday” observed after the winter break. I really don’t remember anything my own teachers did other than tell us whether or not Punxatawney Phil saw his shadow that day and then move on to the next topic.
I spent some time this weekend trying to recall the groundhoggy things I did as a teacher. The first fifteen years of my teaching career were spent teaching music, so I’d always look for songs about groundhogs (there aren’t many – I had to make some up). Later on I taught regular classrooms, so I read books to my students like It’s Groundhog Day by Steven Kroll. When I taught older classrooms we’d look at all the predictions from years past and we’d make graphs comparing how the shadowed years compared with the non-shadowed years.
One year I brought in some large boxes and made tunnels going from table to table so that my pre-first graders could be groundhogs for a little while. We sat under the tables to listen to our morning story and read our books. We went through the tunnels to get from one place to another in the room. We talked about him in our science lesson, deciding what kind of animal a groundhog is, and we worked Punxatawney Phil into our language arts lessons, making up stories about what he might do the rest of the year.
As for the significance of the week in my house, I’d have to say that my focus tends to be on the family birthdays that take place. My father would have celebrated his eighty-seventh birthday this past week. He always insisted that his birthday was of no consequence and that he’d be happier if everyone just forgot the day. Of course, now that he’s gone I never fail to remember him on his birthday – or any day.
Four years ago, Dad’s first great-granddaughter was born, only four days after his birthday. How he would have loved this little girl! She exhibits a lot of the traits I loved about him. She’s intelligent and studious, and she has firm ideas about what’s right and what’s wrong. She has a giving heart and brings a smile to my face, even on the gloomiest of days.
As for the groundhog and his predictions? Well, this is Michigan, so we’ll have six more weeks of winter no matter what Punxatawney Phil says. Wikipedia says that as of 2014 Phil has predicted an early spring 17 times, and the longer winter 101 times. I guess it depends on where you live, but around here that makes him wrong about a dozen times or so.