Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, and Easter. Each year, teachers across the country face how to deal with these holidays in their classroom. Students love learning about and celebrating holidays. When teachers integrate them into their lesson plans, this builds interest while continuing the learning process as the holidays approach.
However, it's not so simple anymore to just have kids put on Christmas skits or paint Easter eggs in class. Many teachers have found that they have to be cautious when teaching about religious holidays.
Elementary School Celebrations
Elementary students are the most excited about holidays. Many of them still believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Therefore, teachers will find that they almost cannot avoid integrating and celebrating the holidays in their classrooms. Methods for doing this range from simple changes like creating word problems and reading passages that focus on holiday themes, to holding classroom celebrations with treats and crafts.
Even though most students and parents want and expect holidays to be part of the classroom experience at this level, elementary school teachers still need to remember that they cannot espouse a specific religious doctrine in front of their students.
Instead, they should be inclusive, creating a warm, accepting environment for all students. You might have students who are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or hold some other religious worldview. Keep this in mind as you create your lesson plans. If you have concerns, talk with your administration or a veteran teacher at your school.
Middle Schools and Holidays
Middle school students, especially the younger ones, still enjoy celebrating the holidays in school. This is a great way to help keep their interest level high as they head to winter or spring break. Many teachers assign a wonderful lesson in which students research and creatively present information about the ways different cultures celebrate holidays. This is a great way to broaden students' perspectives while teaching them about other cultures and beliefs at the same time. It also helps you as the teacher appear more neutral toward any one religion.
Private School Issues
Private schools have different concerns when celebrating holidays in the classroom. Obviously, if a school is affiliated with a particular religion, then teachers will most probably be able to include those religious beliefs in their lesson plans. However, this will vary by school and you should check with your administration to make sure of their policies.
This is especially true with Halloween. Some Christian denominations have begun asking their members to avoid Halloween or change the focus from witches and goblins to more of a fall theme. Thus, it is always best to speak with a veteran teacher or your administrator to find out what is expected of you.