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Happy Valentine’s Day. You Suck.

After many happy years as an elementary school teacher, I accepted a transfer to the junior high, against my better judgment. I quickly realized that I do not get along well with older children and found myself butting heads with most of my students. That’s why I was so surprised on Valentine’s day, when dozens of students stopped by to deliver me beautiful, hand-made cards.

That is, until I read them. Almost every one said ‘Dear Mr. K, you are our least favorite teacher. Mrs. Smith made us make these.’

As it turned out, the school counselor had all the students make cards for their favorite teacher…and their least favorite teacher. I guess she was trying to mend fences, but all this did was make me realize how generally disliked I was. Not a happy Valentine’s Day. When I asked the counselor about this activity, she blamed the kids for being rude, not stopping to think that maybe teachers don’t want to be reminded of their unpopularity.

I’m now happily back teaching elementary school. 0808-11


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Ashley August 15, 2011, 11:59 am

    And this guidance counselor didn’t bother to read any of these before they were given to the OP? Wow… I am not going to question OP’s teaching abilities, as during my own experiences in high school, there are cases where kids will gang up and just randomly hate a perfectly nice normal teacher… but to ask kids to write anything to a least favorite teacher, then not bother to check it for rude things? Shame on that guidance counselor.

  • Gracie C. August 15, 2011, 12:05 pm

    Aw OP – that’s lousy. In the counselor’s defense, I doubt the assignment was to make a card for the least favorite teacher and TELL her that she was the least favorite, but still not a great assignment. And I’m happy you have moved back to the younger kids.

  • Louise August 15, 2011, 12:06 pm

    One the one hand, it’s rude to express to someone how much you dislike them in a card.

    On the other, I feel bad for these children. They’re being forced to make these cards and come up with something nice to say about someone they don’t like, don’t know well and don’t care about. I would have felt frustrated at that age. I probably would have written a generic “Happy Valentine’s Day,” but I can understand why some kids wrote something mean. I don’t condone it, but I understand it.

    To me, it’s like being told to write a Valentine’s Day card to my least-favourite co-worker. I probably could find something positive to say about them, but I would feel aggravated and peeved and tempted to say something like, “I’m being made to do this.” At 27, I have the self-control not to; at 14, some kids don’t.

  • Raven August 15, 2011, 12:12 pm

    Since teachers no longer have any power in the classroom, students feel free to say/do as they please, with zero respect for their authority figures. It’s sad, and I feel bad for OP, but it’s a common story. Students telling teachers to go F*** themselves, causing disruptions in the classroom, not completing assignments – this is the face of education in North America (and probably other places, too). These students could have easily written, “Happy Valentines Day,” and left it at that. Emboldened by a lack of discipline and lack of fear of consequences, they were rude and hurtful.

    I will add, how did the assigning teacher not think to CHECK them before letting the students hand out their cards, at least to the “least favourite” teacher? It’s no secret what kids can be like; how could an educator not have seen that coming? Of course the students are ultimately responsible for their own behaviour, but it would have been good for the other teacher to be a bit more hands-on here.

  • Hemi Halliwell August 15, 2011, 12:16 pm

    Wow, what a ditzy counselor. Jr. high kids are not known for their tactfulness and making a card for your least favorite teacher seems like a very bad idea.
    Glad you are back at the elementary school and enjoying your job!

  • Joe J August 15, 2011, 12:21 pm

    Utterly appalling, both by counselor and students.

    The students should have had the iota of decency and manners required to toss these in the wastebasket rather than give them to the teachers (seriously, this is one of the rare times I wish teachers could still whack students on the hand with a ruler).

    But, first Mrs. Smith has all the students make handmade cards with a hurtful message on them with the intention of them being passed out, and then she has the audacity to blame the entire idiotic idea on the students and seemingly take no responsibility for it? What third-rate, close-cover-before-striking educational institution cranked out this sick ninny? I hope she got a “valentine” in the form of a disciplinary mark from the school administration.

  • P Chan August 15, 2011, 12:24 pm

    What a boneheaded counselor! Did she really intend for the students to say “You are my least favorite teacher?”

  • AS August 15, 2011, 12:27 pm

    The counselor probably wanted the students to say something nice to their least favorite teacher so that, as the OP said, they can mend fences. Not sure if we can blame the counselor for that, though she probably should have discussed with students what exactly she has in her mind (I did not study in the US education system, hence I am not sure what role the counselor would play).
    I don’t know much about the psychology of junior highs, but as far as I remember my parents and teachers would not have tolerated me being rude to anyone when I was in junior high.

    OP, good that you are back to teaching your favorite elementary school children again. They usually tend to adore their regular teachers. I hope you can laugh at the notes now.

  • Erica August 15, 2011, 12:30 pm

    That counselor scares me.

  • MGB August 15, 2011, 12:41 pm

    I taught high school for 15 years. I never heard of such a disgraceful assignment. Children are unruly, mean, judgmental, and cruel. This is natural to them. To rid them of these things is the role of parents and teachers. This assignment, which encourages cruelty can only have come from a troubled, angry person. She must be investigated and counseled herself. And, how could this possibly be meant to “mend fences?”

  • Riri August 15, 2011, 12:44 pm

    Ouch! I would think that by that age, kids know the importance of polite silence :s I can’t imagine how horrible you must’ve felt! Well, you are back where you love now!

  • SV August 15, 2011, 12:46 pm

    No one can perfect the art of rudeness quite like a young teenager. I sometimes cringe, thinking back on different things I said and did at that time in my life ( and I was, generally speaking, pretty well behaved. ) Teens often act before they think and have little concept of other’s feelings. That is not an excuse, of course, but perhaps it will help a bit to realize that when they get older at least some of them will cringe and feel shame for what they did.
    Glad you are back doing what you love!

  • Vrinda August 15, 2011, 12:55 pm

    Middle school kids are bratty. It’s all about being popular and having a negative attitude towards everyone. I student taught at a middle school and subsituted at those grade levels, and the kids were always rowdy, unattentive, and rude. There were exceptions, yes, but the majority of disciplinary problems I had came from those kids. The fact that these kids were bold enough to write such mean comments shows that they don’t care what the repurcussions could be, or what you would think of them. The teacher or counselor who made them make those Valentines should have rethought that idea and lacking in common sense.

  • Athena Carson August 15, 2011, 12:56 pm

    Ah, junior high kids! ‘Tis why I would not be 12 years old again for all the money in the world, and why I am saving up to pay for the therapy my own children will surely need when they get to junior high.

    Anyway, I imagine that the idea behind the least-favorite-teacher valentine was to have the kids appreciate the inherent value in someone they don’t like (or, rather, think they don’t like at 12 years old). The fact that the kids abused the assignment and said, essentially, “we don’t like you” is not the counselor’s fault and she was right to blame it on the rude kids. Hopefully, however, the counselor learned that everything kids do has to be reviewed before they actually give it to someone, and a fiasco like this can be avoided next time.

    How would the OP have seen the assignment if the kids had actually followed the spirit of the assignment and said something like, “Happy Valentine’s Day – Thank you for being our English teacher” or some such. Probably would have made her smile, and probably would have been a valuable lesson for the kids in the right way to treat another human being.

  • Chocobo August 15, 2011, 12:57 pm

    I can’t blame the counselor for this, except that she might have specified that writing to your least and most favorite teacher should have been indistinguishable, or making the kids write only positive messages for ALL their teachers. But who knows, maybe she did? Probably not the best planned project, and clearly the kids missed the point, but I have to agree with the counsellor that ultimately the students are responsible for the content.

    OP, it sounds like middle schoolers aren’t for you, and you made the right choice for yourself and for the children by leaving.

  • jan August 15, 2011, 12:57 pm

    I’m sorry that happened to you but on the bright side, you’re doing what you love again. SO maybe this really was a good thing.

  • ferretrick August 15, 2011, 1:05 pm

    I think the counselor had noble intentions of teaching the kids what sounds like a desperately needed lesson on civility and getting along. It was more than a little naive, though, not to at least look at the cards first, and certainly not to realize that in a school, news travels fast and certainly the teachers would realize they were either selected as the favorite/least favorite teacher.

    Personally, I would have made sure the lesson sunk in by informing the parents of every one of the kids who wrote rude messages what had happened.

    And junior high has to be the absolute worst grades to teach.

  • Allie August 15, 2011, 1:07 pm

    It’s good that you have acknowledged and accepted your limitations and are now back doing a job to which you are more suited. However, I’m not sure the conduct of either the counselor or the students could be considered an etiquette breach. The counselors project was ill-advised, and the students’ conduct was cruel, but not a completely unexpected response to the assignment. I suppose no one has taught them that if you can’t say something nice, it’s better not to say anything at all. I hope that at least some of them reflect on their conduct and come to regret those Valentine cards.

  • lkb August 15, 2011, 1:20 pm

    Wow! Just Wow! I’m glad you were able to get out of that situation and I sincerely hope the counselor and the kids realized at least eventually how traumatizing such a stunt was.

  • many bells down August 15, 2011, 1:20 pm

    Junior high is the hardest age to teach. It’s good that you realized you’re not cut out for it. They’re hitting puberty, old enough to think they’re all grown up, but with zero impulse control. Just smart enough to be really really dumb.

  • Stepmomster August 15, 2011, 1:20 pm

    I find that Jr. High kids can be unbelievably difficult and rude. They are immature like young children, lack life experience to deal with their emotions, and have the hormones of a teenager. I feel for you.

  • Pixie August 15, 2011, 1:33 pm

    I do partially blame the guidance counselor for this. So as not to single anyone out, the assignment should have been to make one for every teacher and it should have been specified that they had to be nice cards. Middle schoolers have a way of rebelling and a mob mentality can quickly set in.

  • gramma dishes August 15, 2011, 1:45 pm

    What an absolutely horrible idea!
    It must have hurt your feelings terribly, but also would probably been quite embarrassing for the other teacher who got virtually all the “favorite teacher” valentines.
    I guess the only true winners would be the teachers who got no ‘valentines’ at all!

    Frankly, the counselor who dreamed this up clearly did not think of the ramifications and probably should be replaced with someone who has a little more common sense!

  • Aje August 15, 2011, 1:45 pm

    HA! I teach middle school, so I know EXACTLY where this is coming from. Middle school kids are just about the most unlovable immature people you will ever meet… you really have to want to be there to make it work or grow a really hard skin.

    The real bad guy in this party is the counselor- I can’t believe she didn’t read them before she sent them out! That’s just plain stupidity! Last year our kids were in charge or making holiday cards to the residents of a retirement home next door and you can bet I checked every one before they were sent- and threw away three!

  • Tara August 15, 2011, 2:24 pm

    I dunno OP, I know that must have hurt, but middle school kids are right at that point in their life when they are at their rudest. Are you mad at the kids, or the counselor? I’m sure the counselor was trying to make the kids think up good points about the people they don’t like, which is a good exercise, except it didn’t work out.

  • Serenity S. August 15, 2011, 2:33 pm

    I feel that the counselor should have known that that was a bad idea. She lacked common sense. In a classroom setting everyone should get a Valentine, or no one should get a Valentine. There are bound to be hurt feelings otherwise. And since she knew that the children were giving a Valentine to someone they did not care for, she should have monitered the content of the cards. Yes, the children were rude and hurtful, but as an adult she had the responsibility to moniter their actions. So I do feel that she was in the wrong in creating this situation. I also wonder what kind of parents raised these children to think it was ok to treat someone like this. I am sorry OP that that happened to you. I am glad that you are in a better setting now.

  • Timothy August 15, 2011, 2:34 pm

    Whoops. Misread the title as a… well, ruder word starting and ending with the same letters.

    However, as for the story…There is a reason I strongly disliked being in junior high and high school. The students do not care about how others feel. If they don’t care about their peers, why would they care about teachers? Even that considered, the fact that every student made those comments on the cards was nothing short of stunning. They may be junior high students, but they surely have learned a little bit of tact, right? Or was I just precocious?

  • Library Diva August 15, 2011, 3:00 pm

    What an awful experience for OP. And what a dumb, misguided project. What’s with the emphasis in some schools on forcing everyone to like each other? Forcing everyone to behave in a civil manner, sure. But why do some think that teaching kids to be fake is a good idea? In no other setting except a school would you have to make a card for someone you can’t stand. It’s no wonder it turned out like this.

  • yarnspinner August 15, 2011, 3:14 pm

    The kids were rude and clueless. The guidance counselor needs counseling. What did she think she would accomplish with this project? Did she even give the kids guidelines? Too many kids this age are waaaaaay too literal about a project and when she said “and your least favorite teacher” they imagined that was what they should write. A different approach would have been to have them find something positive to say about their least favorite teacher and to TELL THEM NOT TO WRITE WHAT THEY DID. (Yes, I have been in a position where I actually had to think up all the things that could go wrong…and address them before they happened–with a group of kids) So, while the kids were incredibly rude and mean, the counselor should have her feet held to the fire for the sheer vague foolishness of the project.

  • Calli Arcale August 15, 2011, 3:16 pm

    Holy cow — the counselor not only recommended that, but when the students carried through on her instructions, she had the gall to blame them for doing it? I’m glad the OP is out of that hostile work environment; I wonder if there’s a professional body that could receive a complaint about that counsellor, because someone that massively insensitive (and willing to blame the *students* when her idea predictably backfired, while simultaneously not grasping *why* it backfired) is not someone I’d want giving advice to vulnerable preteens and teens.

  • Lizajane August 15, 2011, 4:50 pm

    Why would anyone assign Jr High aged kids to make Valentines? Seems a bit babyish to me, and I’m sure it seemed very much so to them.

  • rindlrad August 15, 2011, 5:00 pm

    It may be possible that the counselor did not intend this exercise to turn out so hurtful and disrespectful. Granted, it should have been obvious to her how many ways this situation could go wrong, especially if the kids were not adequately supervised, but perhaps the counselor is young and inexperienced.

    In any case, the counselor should have taken responsibility for her actions (even if they were done with the best of intentions), apologized to the OP for not monitoring the “valentines” sent to disliked teachers more closely, and followed-up with the kids to ensure they were made aware that their behavior was rude and unhelpful.

    I’m not in any way justifying what the kids did or trying to indicate that the OP “deserved” to be treated so badly, but maybe the OP could have used this as an opportunity for self-improvement by discussing with the counselor why he was “generally disliked.” The OP indicates that he did “not get along well with older children and found [himself] butting heads with most of [his] students.” Maybe there were changes that the OP could have made to his attitude and/or teaching style that would have made him a more effective teacher while still maintaining a disciplined classroom.

  • MellowedOne August 15, 2011, 5:40 pm

    This whole thing could have been avoided if the school had just stuck to their duty–educating students. Unless the school is doubling as a Hallmark card sweatshop, stick with the books. Additionally, this teacher could have been a big asset to that junior high, but no one will ever know because of this frivolous incident. And we wonder why our kids can’t read or write properly. 🙁

  • jen a. August 15, 2011, 6:30 pm

    Ouch! That would have really hurt. I hope you didn’t take it too personally! I suspect it was more about rebelling against a school system and finding a more vulnerable teacher to take it out on. I can kind of see where the councillor is coming from, but she definitely should have checked those Valentines. I mean, really, she’s probably been working at a junior high for a few years. She knows what they can be like.

    We teachers all have an age group we fear and are not meant to teach (at least at certain points of our lives). Mine is kindergarten. While everyone at my school would kill for a position teaching that age group I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. Congrats to the OP for going back to teaching the age group that truly makes him happy.

  • Asharah August 15, 2011, 7:10 pm

    Don’t tell me, Mrs. Smith got her inspiration on how to be a guidance counselor by watching the movie “Heathers,” right?

  • LaurenP August 15, 2011, 7:26 pm

    Lets face it, at the age I imagine these kids to be (early teens?), if given that assignment, I would have let them have it with vitrol and hate. Then I would have skived off for the rest of the term because the teacher in question was a bully.

    However, I doubt that the OP was a bullying teacher. It could even be that the ‘Valentines’ came from pupils who felt they were being got at (reality: they were punished because they spent lessons mucking about, talking, attempting to blow up their chemistry experiments etc.). Kids that age have just learnt how to really hurt someone’s feelings, but they don’t have the tools to divine ‘appropriate’, or what is constructive criticism and meanness.

    I have to say that the counsellor was excessively optimistic if they didn’t see this coming. To blame the kids, however, is really wrong. Within school, staff have a responsibility for how pupils behave. At the least, they should have inspected the cards, and weeded out and rebuked those who wrote mean and nasty things.

  • Baglady August 15, 2011, 7:37 pm

    “What’s with the emphasis in some schools on forcing everyone to like each other? Forcing everyone to behave in a civil manner, sure. But why do some think that teaching kids to be fake is a good idea?”

    I don’t think the point of the exercise was to force the students to like their least favorite teacher. It was to teach them to be kind, even to people they don’t care for. Some religions teach “love thine enemy.” That doesn’t mean love them the way you love your best friend, your sweetie and chocolate ice cream. It means to be kind to them and not wish them ill.

    We don’t know if the guidance counselor simply said “make a card for your least favorite teacher,” or whether she specified that the card should say something positive — even if it was only “Happy Valentine’s Day.” If it was the former, then the counselor should share some of the blame with the students because she wasn’t more specific. (You really do have to spell things out for them at that age.) If it was the latter, then the students deliberately disobeyed, and it’s all on them.

  • Chocobo August 15, 2011, 8:34 pm

    Alright everyone, I think that’s quite enough bashing of the middle school children. Yes, middle school can be cruel and awful, but so can first graders and high school students. I have many family members in each age of education (college included), and all of them claim to have the best age group. The high school teachers cringe at the prospect of cleaning up after sniffling noses, bladder control accidents, and finger painting sessions; the middle school teachers balk at the prospect of dealing with sexually active older teens, or the boredom of teaching rudimentary math; elementary school teachers run from the prospect of older children who can talk back and are no longer obedient and innocent. The college professors can’t imagine teaching any children at all.

    In the end, it has much less to do with the children’s ages and more to do with the fit of the teachers to the age group. From the sound of his or her description, the OP was not meant to teach middle school in the first place, and this was the last straw. It doesn’t sound as though the OP particularly liked middle school students in the first place, and says that s/he butted heads with them often. It’s no wonder they sent her the “least favorite teacher” cards. Thankfully the OP is back where s/he belongs with the appropriate group for his/her teaching style, and hopefully the counselor has learned a valuable lesson as well. I do hope there were some serious repercussions for the students.

  • Brian Katcher August 15, 2011, 9:00 pm

    Original poster here. Just want to clarify that it was the counselor I that I’m complaining about here, not the kids. I can’t say I was better behaved at 12. And I did end up teaching at the junior high for four years, three years longer than the counselor. When I announced I was leaving, I was shocked at the number of students who said they’d miss me.

  • Louise August 15, 2011, 10:38 pm

    “Since teachers no longer have any power in the classroom, students feel free to say/do as they please, with zero respect for their authority figures. It’s sad, and I feel bad for OP, but it’s a common story. Students telling teachers to go F*** themselves, causing disruptions in the classroom, not completing assignments – this is the face of education in North America (and probably other places, too). These students could have easily written, “Happy Valentines Day,” and left it at that. Emboldened by a lack of discipline and lack of fear of consequences, they were rude and hurtful.”

    It’s possible, but I think it’s equally possible the students were just frustrated and disgruntled. We pick up at quite a young age that a card is something you give to someone you like — families and friends on birthdays, holidays, maybe Valentine’s Day. There’s a positivity and good will inherent in giving someone a card At that junior high age, I would have been deeply unhappy at having to express all that to someone I didn’t like and with whom I had no interest in fostering a good relationship. Even giving a teacher a card with a generic “Happy Valentine’s Day” would have conveyed something I didn’t mean, because the actual act of making and giving a card means something beyond just that neutral message.

    I’m also curious about the school counsellor giving out assignments. Neither my middle nor my high school counsellor had the authority to assign students work. If it were something I had to do in addition to my regular schoolwork, I would have been even more shirty. And likely blamed the teacher I disliked because it’s convenient and let’s face it, we’re not exactly rational at that age. 🙂

  • Aje August 15, 2011, 11:42 pm

    TOTALLY agree Raven! That’s the most frustrating thing ever- you can’t do anything to those kids and they know it. I had a kid who was about to get kicked out of school- one more offense and he was OUT. He made a mistake, I wrote him up. Guess what? It was only a month before the end of the year, so they didn’t kick him out- he just had to write me a letter of apology. He apologized for being disruptive and was a total horror for the next three weeks.

  • Amp2140 August 16, 2011, 7:20 am

    Look, I was a pretty tame middle schooler. After being in middle school, and watching my father on the school board, there are some pretty awful middle school teachers. I find it strange when a teacher has so few kids that like or tolerate her.

  • V August 16, 2011, 8:04 am

    I’m in agreement with Lizajane. Why are jr. high students doing arts and crafts sort of things unless it was an art class? No blame to the OP; the counselor might also need to consider going to work with younger children since this assigment seems elementry. At that age, I would have been doubly insulted – first by having to make a card in the first place, secondly by having to make a card for someone I didn’t even like. Sounds like this “guidence” counslor is as clueless as the ones at my jr and high schools.

  • TheVapors August 16, 2011, 8:05 am

    Aah! Such fond memories of middle school…

    If this incident had a percentage blame I’d say 80% Students 20% Counselor.

    Those young adults chose to be rude and cruel. They’re old enough to know a heckuva lot better, and could’ve easily just written “Happy Valentine’s Day”. Or even “To: Mr K — From: StudentX”

    The counselor’s intentions were likely noble, if a little naive. I can understand why she might encourage these young adults to start learning to appreciate different teachers, and how to be polite to people we might not get along with.

    That being said, whatever what she thinking that she allowed these cards to be handed out without going through them first? The students might be young adults and old enough to take responsibility for their actions (hence the 80%), but she’s the actual adult and should’ve foreseen something like this (and therefore bares some of the blame).

  • Enna August 16, 2011, 8:19 am

    The counseller was naive in what she did, I don’t think she will do it again or at the very least read the cards first! However this is how novices become expirenced professeionals. The children who wrote the unpleasent cards are still in the wrong though. I’m sorry for your expreinces OP, was the school in a catchment area where children going there have lots of problems? This doesn’t excuse their behaviour; the problem isn’t with you they are taking their problems out on you. This isn’t fair. As for “Mrs Smith made us do these” I would say that’s maniuplative school chidren trying to play staff off against each other.

    Now you are back teaching elemantray school children I’m sure you will influence the children for the better!

  • Lola August 16, 2011, 8:27 am

    I’m flabbergasted by posters suggesting that the guidance counselor should have reviewed the cards from students to another teacher. That amounts to reading someone else’s private correspondence — and we are talking about teenagers who are notoriously sensitive about such intrusions. Having said that, the entire notion of making kids write valentines in school is (I don’t know how to say it nicely) dumb. Teach them to write a nice condolence card, thank you note, a note of apology or any number of letters, cards, and notes that actually serve a purpose in life.

  • ArtK August 16, 2011, 8:28 am

    I certainly can blame the counselor for this. She should have a basic understand of Junior High behavior and the “you’re the worst” cards are unsurprising at the very least. You need to give those kids very explicit directions and you need to check their work.

    I’m glad the OP was able to return to elementary school. Each level requires different skills and outlooks — I know people who are just fine with hyper-emotional Junior High kids, but would have a horrible time in a kindergarten classroom.

  • Clair Seulement August 16, 2011, 8:50 am

    @Mellowed One “Unless the school is doubling as a Hallmark card sweatshop, stick with the books. Additionally, this teacher could have been a big asset to that junior high, but no one will ever know because of this frivolous incident.” *Excellent* (and witty) point–hear, hear!

    Also, how colossal a waste of time/efforts/an opportunity is it to attempt to teach “civility” by stoking the flames of resentment in kids who are in the throes of a physiologically mandated state of rebellion? If anything, the counselor just taught them that they could be bigger jerks and get away with it. Plus can you imagine the peer pressure exerted on some of the inevitably less rude kids, if *almost every single * kid made out a rude card? A disaster all around

  • Alexis August 16, 2011, 9:02 am

    I am appalled that both the students and the counselor got away with this. The kids should have been punished for their rudeness, and been forced to give the teacher WRITTEN apologies. The counselor needs to go back to school and learn about: a)pre-adolescent behavior and b) how to do her job properly, including follwing up on assignments she hands out and FIXING the mistakes she made, instead of shrugging her shoulders and doing nothing.

  • Ann August 16, 2011, 9:08 am

    Does no one remember their own childhood?

    The counsellor gave those kids “permission” to be snarky, and they creatively took full advantage of it. And, that counsellor didn’t last long at that grade level, and many kids actually appreciated the teacher. That says it all — it’s the counsellor that the kids didn’t actually like, and the teacher they knew was tough enough to take it that got the anti-Valentine cards.