As you likely know - most holidays are not universally celebrated and as we enter a time of the year that is heavy on holidays and the commercial celebrations of those holidays, it is important to consider the exclusion that comes with it. For example, the Muslim community does not celebrate Christmas in December but does have a similar holiday, Eid, that they celebrate in May at the end of Ramadan. If we acknowledge Christmas, how do we also honor Eid?
Teaching while navigating the holidays is a tricky thing!
This is a busy time of the year and it is filled with a seemingly endless list of holidays and traditions. So, how can you navigate through the holidays without offending, isolating, or disrespecting any of your students, parents, or community? And, how do you find time to teach through all of this and honor cultural traditions safely and meaningfully in your classroom? We have created a list of recommended resources and tips to utilize to ensure that you are creating an environment to celebrate this time of year while building engagement and by being culturally responsive and inclusive.
Go Slowly and Work Together
Probably the most important thing you can do is to take some time and collaborate with your team to discuss and plan what you will do together. Think of it…..you come up with some great plan for Thanksgiving that acknowledges the “American” holiday and the “Indigenous people” story at the same time. You figure out how to do this without adding to the stress level of the students in your school who won’t be able to afford a lavish spread at their table. But, a colleague, who also teaches your kids, disregards your plans and does something counterproductive. Guess what? Your plans may be wasted.
Think Inclusively and Embrace Diversity
There are lots of great ideas out there for you to use! Check out the resources below to see a wide range of activities that you could adapt to your own learning environment.
- Samantha Stinchcomb’s article “Ten Ways to Celebrate Diversity During the Holidays” has ten great ideas but her idea of having your kids create their own holiday really jumps out as being a great way to give all of your students a voice while avoiding many (if not all) of the potentially problematic barriers associated with our holidays. This idea could be used in multiple classrooms where students not only have to create the holiday but produce its history, write its story, and visualize its traditions.
- Download the Thanksgiving protocol that I created with my colleague Katie Novak, it can be completed individually or with a team. The protocol and sample agenda outlines ways to feel better prepared to teach Thanksgiving themed units (and other potential culturally sensitive subjects) through a lens of culturally responsive pedagogy. Seeds for Teacher’s article on “Celebrating The Holiday Season In A Culturally Responsive Way” suggests that you make sure that you incorporate diverse holidays equally throughout your class or help the students see that the same holiday can be celebrated differently in different cultures. Your librarian can help you find books from different cultures if you don’t have them.
- Heather Aulisio suggests inviting in volunteer parents (or others) who can introduce the kids to how they celebrate a holiday in their culture. That not only makes the differences real, it builds your community
- Edutopia shares strategies to navigate any holiday or special event respectfully with academic benefits
- Go beyond the winter holidays and further your professional learning in Universal Design and inclusive practices,
- Learn to equip students & teachers with the will, skill, and collective capacity to enact positive change, take an online course:
- Equity By Design (self-directed)
- UDL for Equity (facilitated)
- Schedule a district-based course or professional learning for you and your group
- Host a book club on Equity By Design - a blueprint for teachers to alter the all-too-predictable outcomes for our historically under-served students. A first of its kind resource, the book makes the critical link between social justice and Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
Finally, and just as importantly, have fun and get the kids engaged in the preparation and delivery of whatever you choose to do! Our holidays are meant to bring us together and they can do that if we acknowledge them for their critical and cultural importance.
- Check out some fun and culturally responsive seasonal ideas from Katie Novak designed to embrace variability and help to eliminate barriers that may hinder experiences for our students and families.
Here is a short list of some of the holidays coming up:
- Nov. 25:Thanksgiving - United States
- Dec. 6: Saint Nicholas Day — Christian
- Dec. 8: Rohatsu (Bodhi Day) — Buddhist
- Dec. 10 to 18: Hanukkah — Judaism
- Dec. 21: Solstice — Wicca/Pagan
- Dec. 25: Christmas — Christian
- Dec. 26: Zarathosht Diso (Death of Prophet Zarathustra) — Zoroastrian
We know the holidays we identified are not an exclusive list and we would love to hear your suggestions and thoughts to ensure this post is inclusive! We will keep this as a working post - updating and adding as we go. Email us email@example.com.