How teachers can to bring more diversity into a classroom when it comes to holiday celebrations
by Shelby Kretz
During the month of December, many teachers want to decorate their classroom and celebrate the holidays. However, it’s important to be inclusive and thoughtful about how you approach holidays in the classroom. Educators tend to center Christmas, which not only excludes students who don’t celebrate Christmas, but also narrows kids’ worldviews about the diverse holidays, celebrations, and belief systems that happen year round.
Here are 4 quick tips to easily diversify your classroom this year when it comes to holiday celebrations:
- Don’t make assumptions about your students’ celebrations.
It’s easy to make assumptions based on what we know about our students and their families, but try not to assume that you know what holidays your students celebrate. The reality is, some families may not celebrate the holidays you think they do, or they may celebrate holidays that you didn’t think they celebrated. Checking our assumptions as educators will help us come in with an open mind when it comes to holidays. In fact, many students don’t celebrate any holidays in December. Be sure to be aware of the fact that even referring to the “holiday season” could make some students feel excluded if they celebrate their holidays at a different time of the year.
- Learn alongside your students.
None of us are experts on every single holiday, celebration, or belief system that exists in the world. Be honest about what you don’t know, and use this as an opportunity to learn together. You can use books, crafts, writing prompts, and research projects all as learning opportunities for digging deeper into holidays and celebrations. Together you can build a better understanding of the different celebrations that happen all over the world.
- Stress similarities between different holiday celebrations and belief systems.
While we want to celebrate everything that makes different cultures unique, we also want students to recognize that there are many similarities between different people around the world. Those similarities will help them develop empathy and understand how we’re all connected. Focus on what things are often similar among belief systems or celebrations – for example, most belief systems are based on a set of values. Many celebrations include special food, music, activities, and gathering of loved ones. Focus on those things that show how, at the heart of it, we have a lot in common.
- Diversify your classroom decor.
It’s tempting to set up a holiday display, especially one that you think is diverse and inclusive. But rather than setting up a Christmas classroom display, or even a display that you think is representative, allow your students to decorate with what is meaningful to them. You can have them do a craft project where they’re creating something that’s important to them. It may be a representation of their favorite holiday (which could be any time of the year), or maybe ask them to draw something that they love about December, which could be a holiday or something else. Allow them to create those art pieces and put them up around the room to create a truly inclusive display that represents your students and their diverse experiences. Even if every single student in your class celebrates the same holiday, they likely don’t celebrate it in exactly the same way, so allowing them to create their own decorations for the classroom will ensure they feel represented.
These four tips are simple to implement and will help your classroom represent the true diversity that exists among your students and beyond.
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