This time of year can either drag by minute by minute (does the clock really say 8:05am?!) or it can speed past in a flurry of engaged activities that pretty soon its Winter Break and you wonder where the year went. Personally I prefer the latter experience to the former!
As a person who needs constant change and stimulation, my personal motto for the classroom has always been that if I am bored so are my students. If I am watching the clock and dragging myself out of bed every morning hating every minute, then, so are my students!
I always relish this time of year and May because it is a chance to take a small break from curriculum (I am the kind of teacher that skip holidays and stays on calendar, I know, I'm THAT teacher!) and do something engaging and fun!
A small side note, all of these activities are holiday neutral, so you shouldn't run into any issues of being insensitive to any particular group of students. This list was brainstormed a few years ago by my leadership team! Enjoy! If you do use these please tag me on Instagram @theteachinglifestyle and #theteachinglifestyle
I have one last post scheduled for next Saturday about different ways to schedule your Winter Break so that you get a balance of family time, YOU time, and a little work time! After that I won't be posting again until January 2019, about speaking to parents, since I am sure you Progress Reports will be coming up just like mine!
The holidays can be a time of joy and celebration, but for many students it can be a time of awkwardness and exclusion. Imagine being a student who isn't Christian and doesn't celebrate Christmas having an Elf on the Shelf in their classroom. Imagine being a student who isn't allowed to participate in holiday activities coming in and seeing Christmas decor and having to skirt around holiday activities for the next month.
I am choosing to write about this now for two reasons: I am seeing a lot of Elf on the Shelf, Christmas trees, and Santa's popping up on my Instagram feed from classrooms all over the US; and that I am not a Christian and I do not celebrate any holidays during this time of year. I become acutely aware of how our students may be feeling during this time of year, because I felt the same way when I was a child and did not have the mature language skills I needed to express my feelings to my teacher. I always felt that "This is the way it is, and it isn't changing."
Last year I had a student who was a practicing Jehovah's Witness. During Meet the Teacher Night her mother was very concerned about holidays, but seemed apologetic when speaking to me about her concerns. I told her not to worry, that I rarely celebrated any holidays in my classroom, and I would run any planned activities by her. In October, we celebrated Fall. When Halloween rolled around we continued with lessons as usual. During November I taught my normal historically accurate history with articles from Newsela. During December we worked on Compliment Presents and Joy Books, both from The Thinker Builder blog. Our party was also a "Hard Work Celebration" rather than a Christmas party. In February we celebrated love rather than Saint Valentine, and I gave out non-Valentine activities. At the end of the year my student and her mother thanked me for being inclusive. My student told me every year during Halloween, December, and Valentine's Day she had to leave her other classrooms because her past teachers hadn't been inclusive.
I understand that if you are Christian being disappointed or even angry about the thought of not being able to share the joy of the season with your students, but that is NOT what I am suggesting at all! Let's discuss some alternatives to celebrating the season with your students in a way that is inclusive and fun for all!
Thank you for opening your minds and hearts to our students, and working towards being the best educators we can!
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I'm Mae and I am a Master Teacher who supports third through sixth grade in all subjects, Thinking Maps trained, with a Master's Degree in Elementary Education!