The power of giving…

“For the Man Who Hated Christmas” by Nancy W. Gavin
It’s just a small, white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past ten years or so.
It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas
oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the
commercial aspects of it -overspending… the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma – the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else.
Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.
Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended; and shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat. Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, “I wish just one of them could have won,” he said. “They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.” Mike loved kids
-all kids
-and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse. That’s when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note
inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on.
The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide
-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.
As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn’t end there.
You see, we lost Mike last year due to dreaded cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning, it was joined by three more.
Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing to take down the envelope.
Mike’s spirit, like the Christmas spirit will always be with us.
To learn more about honoring a loved one through this special tradition, please visit
Note: This story was originally published in the December 14, 1982 issue of Woman’s Day magazine. It was the first place winner out of thousands of entries in the magazine’s “My Most Moving Holiday Tradition” contest in which readers were asked to
share their favorite holiday tradition and the story behind it. The story inspired a family
from Atlanta, Georgia to start The White Envelope Project and Giving101, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating youth about the importance of giving.

Assessment Literacy

A renewed focus at RHS is the idea of aligning all assessments to our curriculum and standards.  As we continue to review and revise our curriculum outcomes and goals to be in line with our state learning standards, we also need to be sure that the daily assessments we give our students are hitting the mark with regard to assessing what our curriculum states we should be teaching.  This is not a new process by any means but one that must stay at the forefront of what we do.

There are certain steps necessary to ensure this takes place.  It begins with “unpacking” our curriculum and identifying the intended learning outcomes for each unit of instruction and mapping those specific outcomes onto a table of specifications – otherwise referred to as a blueprint.  After each question of every assessment gets mapped onto this table,  teachers will be able to analyze what is and isn’t and what should and shouldn’t be on each unit assessment.   The table will also visually illustrate the relative emphasis on each area of the unit as well as the reliability and validity of the assessment.  While this process is tedious and time consuming, it will help us ensure that all areas of our curriculum are being assessed appropriately and allow us to make adjustments where needed.

A large part of this process will include utilizing tools such as Webb’s Depth of Knowledge, Hess’ Cognitive Rigor Matrix and Bloom’s Taxonomy.

This process began with our November 5th early dismissal day when we hosted a workshop by Dr. Leslie Grant, Associate Dean for Academic Programs and Associate Professor for Educational Policy, Planning and Leadership from the William & Mary School of Education.  Dr. Grant will be returning to RHS on February  7th to work with small groups of staff and administrators.  We will continue this critical work as a high school staff throughout the remainder of this school year.