I w onder if the teacher is a JW.
Grinchy remark sends kids home in tears
|By RORY SCHULER|
Lebanon Daily News
|LICKDALE — Jamey Schaeffer stretched her mouth open wide, showing off a pair of twin gaps in her smile. With a mouthful of fingers, she said she has no interest in two front teeth for Christmas. |
Instead, she’d like a Barbie doll from Santa Claus — and Santa Claus only.
But a substitute music teacher almost came between the 6-year-old and a Christmas Eve spent dancing cheek to cheek with sugar plums.
Theresa Farrisi stood in for Schaeffer’s regular music teacher one day last week. One of her assignments was to read Clement C. Moore’s famous poem, “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” to a first-grade class at Lickdale Elementary School.
“The poem has great literary value, but it goes against my conscience to teach something which I know to be false to children, who are impressionable,” said Farrisi, 43, of Myerstown. “It’s a story. I taught it as a story. There’s no real person called Santa Claus living at the North Pole.”
Farrisi doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, and she doesn’t think anyone else should, either. She made her feelings clear to the classroom full of 6- and 7-year-olds, some of whom went home crying.
Schaeffer got off the school bus later that day, dragging her backpack in the mud, tears in her angry little eyes.
“She yelled at me, ‘Why did you lie?’” recalled Jamey’s mother, Elizabeth. “‘Why didn’t you tell me Santa Claus died?’”
Elizabeth Schaeffer said she was appalled by Farrisi’s bluntness.
“I had to call the school,” said Schaeffer, a part-time custodial employee for the school district who is on temporary leave after complications from her last child’s birth. “I had to do something.”
Meanwhile, Farrisi, who is well versed on the history of “Santa Claus” — the traditional and literary figure — clarified her comments.
“I did not tell the students Santa Claus was dead,” she explained. “I said there was a man named Nickolas of Myrna who died in 343 A.D., upon whom the Santa Claus myth (is based).”
On Monday night, Jamey started to recite Moore’s famous poem while sitting on a couch next to a freshly cut tree, trimmed in tinsel and topped with a golden star: “’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house. No creatures stirred.”
She paused, looked up, and said that’s when the teacher interjected, just a few lines before the verse that announces the arrival of “a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.”
“The teacher stopped reading and told us no one comes down the chimney,” Jamey said, curling into a ball on the couch, bracing her chin on her knees, her voice shrinking away like melting ice cream. “She said our parents buy the presents, not Santa.”
Sharing in the belief of Santa Claus is a very special event in the Schaeffer home. Jamey’s the second youngest of five children. The three oldest have already grown up and left the family nest. Only Jamey and her 18-month-old sister, Amanda, remain.
Last year, Elizabeth Schaeffer recalled, Santa left a trail of boot prints in charred ashes from his feet-first landing in the fireplace. And this year, the family will continue their tradition of leaving him a plate of cookies, a tall glass of milk and a ripe, shaved carrot for Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.
The Schaeffer family wasn’t the only one taken aback by Farrisi’s approach to Santa.
Tim and Beth Rittle said they found their 7-year-old daughter, Holly, in tears in the back seat of their car after they picked her up from school that day.
“All of a sudden, Holly just started crying,” Beth Rittle said. “She said she had a substitute in music class, and she told the class there’s no such thing as Santa Claus.”
Schaeffer and Rittle both called Northern Lebanon School District Superintendent Don L. Bell.
Since the issue involves personnel, Bell said Monday, there is little he can say about the incident, adding that it has not been determined if any disciplinary action is warranted against Farrisi.
Bell said he was aware that several parents have expressed concerns about the incident.
He also noted that the handling of Santa Claus isn’t covered in the school code.
“We do not have a Santa Claus policy,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, but I really can’t say anything about it.”
Farrisi said she considered approaching the school’s administration with her concerns about how to handle Santa Claus in class. Instead, she said, she decided to add a disclaimer to her lesson.
“Those same children are going to know someday that what their parents taught them is false,” she ex-plained. “There is no Santa Claus.”
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Schaeffer was carefully thinking about her next step. She decided to make a photocopy of editor Francis P. Church’s famous response to a little girl, who wrote to The New York Sun many decades ago, asking the same question Schaeffer’s daughter struggled with last week.
“I mailed (Farrisi) a copy of ‘Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,’” she said, giggling with satisfaction. “I wish I could be there when she opens it.”
As for Jamey, in an attempt to reaffirm her spot on Santa’s nice list, she drew up a new letter in bright red magic marker, a message destined for the Santa she refuses to abandon.
“Dear Santa ... How is the North Pole?” she said, reading her letter loudly and proudly. “How is Mrs. Claus? You are Great. From Jamey.”