We're in holiday season and hitting the end of the quarters at schools all around the U.S.. We're nearing winter break and with the coming of winter break, out come the holiday activities! Now, I don't want you to get me wrong- holiday activities can be great. My issues come for in these 2 events:
1. We only do activities that relate to Christmas (or the non-religious Christmas-even just how many celebrate here in America). Elves, Letters to Santa, gifts, the Grinch and all of those things we see with the commercial form of Christmas.
This gives kids the impression that everyone celebrates Christmas and that no other traditions or celebrations matter. It tells them that Christmas is the most important because that's what "we" celebrate when in fact, there are so many other people who have other holiday traditions. It gives Christmas a sort of "superiority" to all other holiday traditions and as teachers, our job is to teach diversity and how to include everyone. We want our students to be citizens of the world.
2. When we have students who cannot participate because they do not celebrate these holidays and we find other things for them to do.
Many people will find alternative activities for those specific students to do during the times when the rest of the class is doing these holiday activities. Teachers have even mentioned sending that specific student to another classroom during their "Grinch Day" or "Polar Express Day" or any other holiday centered day. What does this say to our students? When they ask where that student is going, how do you respond? I believe what students see is:
- He is different.
- She does not celebrate holidays like we do, therefore she is not included in our classroom during this day.
- His beliefs are not as important as everyone else.
- She is not as special as us because she can't participate.
I truly believe that is not the message you are trying to send, but when we disinclude kids in activities because of their beliefs (or anything else) , that's exactly the message we are giving our students.
Now, I am not here to shame anybody- I promise. We are all human beings....teachers...trying to do the best we can for our students. I just beg you to please ask yourself these questions.
What am I accomplishing with this activity that I cannot accomplish with something else that includes this student? How would I feel if I was this student who was asked to complete a different activity than everyone else or was removed from the room because I celebrate different (or not at all) than everyone else? What am I teaching my students by not including even just 1 student in our room? Is this the message I want my students to understand?
And remember: all of our students are equally important and should be representing in our classrooms as so.