Springtime brings a lot of new beginnings. For some, it means the end to fasting and amazing celebrations of food; for others it is the end of the winter weather and a chance to enjoy the outdoors. It is a busy time of year and it is culturally rich. There are lots of holidays and activities and your schedule can get pretty busy. How do you find time to teach through all of this? And how can you honor cultural traditions safely and meaningfully in your classroom?
One way to negotiate your way through the “busy-ness” is to use upcoming events as “hooks” to get you into deeper discussion with your students. Hooks are great tools for engagement. Using spring holidays as hooks can “Promote expectations and beliefs that optimize motivation”, “Foster Collaboration and community” and “Optimize relevance, value and authenticity” when you honor them in ways that are culturally sustaining and trauma-informed. As with all holidays, they mean different things to different people and taking the time to build empathy with your learners is critical.
So, let’s take a look at the Spring holidays to see what the possibilities are. I was curious, so I Googled “Spring Holidays”. The list is pretty extensive:
That’s right, there are at least 40 of them and clearly, this list is not exhaustive (let us know about any celebrations we can add!). Here are some questions to ponder, and our answers.
- Should you just ignore them? (No!)
- Should you celebrate all of them? (No!)
- Should you acknowledge them but not celebrate them? (Maybe.)
- Should you just celebrate some of them? ((Maybe)
Holidays are a great sign of the variability that exists in modern life. This variability is terrific. It is obviously great that we have a day to acknowledge teachers (that one should be elevated 😉). However, who would have guessed that May 4th would become a holiday to celebrate Star Wars (May the 4th be with you)? Or that 3.14 would become a national Pi Day. Some holidays are serious. Some are just for pure fun.
Regardless of your stance about holidays, we urge you to be mindful, to consider potential barriers, and to ensure that any acknowledgement of celebrations helps all learners to feel seen, celebrated and safe. Below, our team shares some considerations for some upcoming holidays.
When you hear the words Mother’s Day or Father’s Day what comes to mind? A day spent expressing your love and gratitude, giving sentimental or hilarious cards, outdoor, fun filled barbeques with Dad? Making breakfast in bed for mom? Or does that day evoke painful memories of loss, uncomfortable feelings and emotions surrounding traumatic events, or the deep yearning to have a mom or dad? Part of being a trauma informed educator means that we proactively think about, plan for, and use trauma sensitive celebrations and activities that support and include all of our learners. Activities that create a safe place for them, not trigger and evoke pain, sadness, and feelings of exclusion. Wondering how to do that? Check out some of the ideas below to use instead of bringing attention to Mother and Father’s Day.
- How about instead of hosting a “Mom and Muffins” or a “Dad and Donuts” celebration at your school site, host an inclusive event “ Family and Friends” where every child can invite someone to attend, not just a mom or dad.
- Focus on appreciating someone who has been a caregiver, a caretaker, or an inspiration. You could provide writing prompts and colorful art supplies to create cards and letters that are addressed to anyone they appreciate: a teacher, neighbor or friend, a character in a book, or an animal who just had a baby at a zoo (you can sneak a peek on virtual field trips!).
- Here’s another idea that sneaks in some grammar, but is a fun way to express their gratitude for anyone in their life, not just a mom or dad: download a Madlib type card.
The PTA often plans a way to celebrate teachers on this day. This year has been tougher than normal for most, so enjoy your day in every way you can!
But, you can also use Teacher’s Day to introduce some new information about who you are and what you do outside of school and fill in the blanks about what your students don’t know about you yet. Take this day to do things that you love and share those things with your students so they can, in turn, celebrate with you as they connect with you. Carl W. Buehner once said: “They may forget what you said — but they will never forget how you made them feel” and research has shown that your relationship with your students is the “thing” that they will always remember. Obviously, this has everything to do with what you do with your students everyday and how you treat them and support them but Teacher’s Day could be a great opportunity to reinforce those practices with your personal touch. Below are some ideas on how you can use this day to connect with your students
- Create a Spotify playlist and share with your students in class. As you play each song share facts about you and why certain songs mean something to you (ex. song came out when you were a senior in college at XX studying XX)
- Create a quiz on Quizlet or Kahoots about yourself for students to take and then share the results with them
- Play one of your favorite games in class with your students (ex. Taboo is a great one to do in a group setting)
- If you are remote or in person - give them a virtual tour of some of your favorite things
Spring Religious Holidays
Passover, Easter, and Ramadan all happen especially close to each other this year so that gives you a great opportunity to embrace the variability and celebrate or discuss them as they occur. As a “hook,” this would be a great time to have the students who celebrate any of these holidays present their personal perspectives on the history, significance and cultural or religious role that the holidays play in their communities as part of a bigger “spring traditions” discussion in your room It could also be a time to share the different foods that each tradition celebrates with on their special day(s). You could also use the holidays to introduce different books or resources that would allow the students to choose the resource that would mean the most to them. Whatever you decide to do, the goal must always be inclusive and positive....to look at them from an academic perspective and learn about each other in the process. One practical idea is to make sure that you don’t schedule major exams or project due dates on any of these dates so that no one needs to ask for an extension and everyone can enjoy the holiday if they celebrate it. The best ways to accomplish this are by planning in advance and providing a quarterly calendar of major assignments that includes the important holidays or by getting the students and their families involved in the planning process.
More Spring Holidays
Some of the spring holidays are great discussion and activity starters. Below are a few ideas for how to celebrate these days in your teaching practice:
- March 14, Pi Day (or since it is on a Sunday - any day the week of 3/14) - Math lovers rejoice! NASA has some great ideas as well as Piday.org
- March 20 - The Spring Equinox - Share the history of the Spring Equinox and highlight how some cultures celebrate
- April 1 - International Tatting Day - could be used as a starting point for a bigger discussion of craftsmanship and art. (Right about now you are thinking about Googling what Tatting Day is aren’t you?) If nothing else, celebrating Tatting Day could be a great April Fools joke in your classroom!
- May 4, May the 4th be with you, Star Wars Day - A great opportunity for the Arts or to bring fun Star Wars language or games into your lessons
- May 5, Cinco de Mayo - Teach culture and diversity (and read this before you plan how to celebrate to ensure you are celebrating the culture and avoiding the Americanized, commercialized version!)
- June 6, D Day, WWII - Engage your learners in the history of WWII and DDay - there are several teacher resources on the DDay site and you can access free recordings that can be shared with students
- June 19, Juneteenth - If you aren’t teaching this in school yet, you should. It is an opportunity to discuss civil Rights, Black Lives Matter and social injustice. Learning for Justice has a great read for educators on Juneteenth.
All of these holidays are an opportunity for you to bring your class together as you celebrate your differences and engage them at a deeper level! As we have said before,
No matter how you decide to celebrate this time of year, it is important to embrace variability and help to eliminate barriers that may hinder experiences for our fellow students and families. By providing options and opportunities for our kiddos to take the experience into their own hands, we are helping to build expert learners and happy, fulfilled kids!
When in doubt, celebrate the arrival of Spring. Take your lesson plan outside and enjoy the great outdoors. Many of us have memories of impromptu field trips where we left the classroom to go observe the changes in the landscape, the sprouting of the daffodils and enjoyed the nice weather. If that is not a great hook, then I don’t know what is!
We know the holidays we identified is not an exclusive list and we would love to hear your suggestions and thoughts to ensure this post is inclusive! We will keep this is a working post - updating and adding as we go. Email us firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us @EducationNovak.
Resources and Continued Learning Opportunities:
- Read or listen to Equity By Design
- Take a flex-paced course or register your team for a district-based course
- Schedule a PD session