A teachable moment in line waiting to see Santa

Yesterday, we were waiting in line to see Santa.  A girl behind us, maybe six or seven years old said to her dad, “I don’t want to see Santa.”  When her dad asked why she responded, “Santa was mean to Rudolph.”  As we waited, her comment lingered and began to weigh heavy on me.  Was Santa mean to Rudolph?  I quickly retold the story to myself in my mind.

Here is what I can remember, Rudolph was different and his father was embarrassed and tried to make him look and act like the other reindeer.  His friends made fun of him, called him names and wouldn’t let him play.  The reindeer teacher, Coach Comet sent Rudolph home because he was different and poor Rudolph left home in a storm because he felt as if he didn’t belong.  On his journey, he met Hermey the Elf and Yokon Cornelius and they end up at the Island of Misfit Toys.  Oh no, I thought to myself, this is too familiar.  I’ve been talking about this all semester with my students.

But, was Santa mean to Rudolph?  What was his role in the story?  Had he been a bystander and allowed this to happen?  After much thought and deliberation, I finally decided that Santa was not mean-spirited towards Rudolph.  How could he be?  He’s just a jolly old soul!  He probably could have done more in the beginning and perhaps he could have engaged the young reindeer and the teacher into a conversation on what it means to be socially responsible, but Santa was not intentionally mean to Rudolph.  I’m just glad that the rest of the reindeer figured out how wrong they were about Rudolph and I thank that young girl in line waiting to meet Santa yesterday for providing me a time to reflect on this teachable moment.

As one of my college freshmen said it best last week, “If you’re not the solution; you are part of the problem.”  Here’s to engaging more people into the conversation so no one feels like Rudolph, Hermey, Yokon, Bumble or the other toys on the Island of Misfit Toys.  As we embrace the spirit of the season, make sure we take the time to be part of the solution!




  • Wow , only a kid would truly see what happened in this classic story. i am 18 and have watched it over and over and never thought about this until now. sadly i think santa did have some blame. he knew about the harsh treatment of poor Rudolph,and he had the power to stop it but he didnt. Santa did not have bad intentions as none of us do when we hear a harsh word or comment,pass on a hurtful joke ,or just choose to ignore something. we dont think about the outcomes and sadly there are many kids walking around like rudolph feeling as if the dont belong.

  • Who would think that you would find examples of bullying in a classic holiday moive for children. I have seen that moive so many times and never picked up on it. Never under estimate the thinking process of young children. I am sure if you look closely at alot of programing you will find many examples of people being bullied. Completing EDU 536 makes you look at things in a different light. I love the statement your student made “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem”. All it takes is one and more will follow.

  • Pingback: #digcit chat: a defining moment | The Dyslexic Professor

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