Teachers everywhere are counting down the days to the miraculous winter break. We’ve made it through the beginning of another school year. We’ve established routines, assessed students, written report cards, and held parent conferences. We’ve made it through the sneak peek, Thanksgiving break, and resettled students as they came back from break.
In many schools, celebrating holidays can be tricky. We want to be inclusive of all students from a variety of religious and cultural backgrounds. How does your school choose to celebrate?
In my school we have worked hard to reach a balance among a variety of holidays stretching from September through December. We still celebrate Halloween with costumes. But we also ask parents if they would like to opt out of Halloween celebrations. If parents choose to opt out, we plan a separate celebration for those students. Students who celebrate come to school in costumes. In our class we had popcorn and apple cider and watched a movie. The students who did not celebrate completed a school-wide scavenger hunt and had their own treats. At first I was skeptical but in the past 4 years this celebration was successful and all kids were happy.
For Thanksgiving, we create gratitude projects. We select members of our school community – the after school teachers, the lunch lady, custodians, office managers, our too often unsung heroes – are honored in our project. Each class chooses how they would like to show gratitude for one or more staff members. This year classes made cards and baked goods and delivered their thank yous on the day before break.
We have a diverse group of students who celebrate all the different holidays. The month of December holds many different traditions. Instead of choosing one as a school, on the last day of school, we hold a Festival of Light. Each class chooses a winter holiday or tradition. We research and learn about the specifics of that tradition. We create a performance, often incorporating music, singing, dancing, or some kind of dramatic play to showcase what we have learned. On the last day of school, each grade presents for the entire school community. After the performances are complete, we head back to our rooms for cookies and milk. Parent volunteers are invited to come in and teach about their own holiday traditions.
What I love about how my school celebrates the holidays is that we don’t ignore them, which might be the easiest approach. I’ve been in school districts where we don’t celebrate any holidays in the hopes of not offending others. While I understand this mindset, I also appreciate the approach of…education! Instead of doing away with celebrations, we educate our students on the variety of traditions celebrated in our world.
About the Author:
Meg Howe is an elementary school teacher at a charter school in Boston, MA. She has been a teacher for 14 years spanning grades K – 5. Meg has spent time teaching in public, private, and charter schools in Bellingham, WA, Rome, Italy, Los Angeles, CA, Buffalo, NY, and Boston, MA. Meg also runs her own blog at AliceEverAfter.com that features her thoughts on children’s literature. She has a passion for picture books and middle grade books and hopes one day Kate DiCamillo can be her new best friend.