Find Connection in Holidays and Traditions
Building Upon Opportunities to Learn from Each Other
This time of year, when many significant holidays converge, reminds me of how traditions foster connection. Last week, I was on a staff call during which Leading Educators team members shared their winter traditions. It became apparent that many of us share traditions centered around similar things…whether that’s food, an activity, or ways we celebrate with our families. We all come from different parts of the country and might identify with different cultures, but in the end, we draw meaning from similar values.
As we look forward to this holiday season at Leading Educators, we encourage you to consider ways to honor the different holidays, beliefs, and traditions your students and community value during December and throughout the year.
Think about the connection between belonging and cultural representation in your classroom.
In this article, Kyleen Gray suggests that learning about students’ different cultures and traditions at the beginning of the year can make for a richer and more diverse learning experience throughout the year. While students might not know the history behind specific holidays they celebrate, they can be encouraged to talk about how they celebrate at home and their family traditions.
In our Teaching For Equity action guide, we discuss ways to include lessons in the classroom that allow students to feel seen and heard. We believe that “Students’ cultures and identities are valuable; lessons should offer the chance to affirm and include students’ cultures as jumping off points for learning and to broaden students’ perspectives by learning about other cultures.”
Find opportunities to teach about tolerance, inclusion, and cultural heritage through the history of traditions and their role today.
For students, understanding the historical context behind different celebrations can help all students feel seen and heard. The Freedom Forum Initiative suggests guidelines around what teachers, administrators, parents, and community members should consider as students prepare to learn about different holidays in the classroom.
First, they encourage educators to ask themselves: “Do I have a distinct educational purpose in mind?” Once you know the purpose behind your lesson, you can be creative in how you teach your students in an inclusive way.
Another approach is to have students come up with their own class celebrations. Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards from NAEYC suggest celebrating the end of the year, the beginning of a new year, or even something as simple as having a pajama day for younger children where they talk about their bedtime rituals. This gives students an opportunity to understand the purpose and value of celebrating things that are important to them without being holiday-specific.
Consider using different themes to connect holidays and traditions throughout the year.
Learning for Justice proposes looking at different themes like peace, joy, service, and gratitude when teaching about celebrations. Using themes as the catalyst for exploring how people around the world have shared values can be a good entry point into learning about various cultures and traditions.
Share your ideas!
- What have you seen work well in the classroom when honoring the various traditions students recognize?
- What do you wish you knew sooner?
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