Living in a very diverse metropolitan area I have had Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and Jehovah’s Witnesses in my classroom- all at the same time. As you can imagine, navigating the holidays can be tricky, I am very careful to be inclusive instead of exclusive. Our focus during the month of December is fairy tales with an emphasis on The Gingerbread Man. We make gingerbread houses out of milk cartons and sparkly snowflakes as gifts for our parents. If a student celebrates Christmas they can put the snowflake in their tree, but if not it has a magnet on the back which is perfect for holding papers on the refrigerator. One year I was explaining the different uses for the snowflake when one of my more interesting students, let’s call him Sammy, spoke up and shared a story I will never forget.
Sammy: We don’t have a tree.
Me: That’s o.k., lots of people don’t have trees; you can put the snowflake on your refrigerator.
Sammy: Maybe I can put it on the Christmas Fish.
Me: (intrigued and thinking maybe this is a cultural or religious tradition I haven’t heard of) Wow! You have a Christmas Fish? Can you tell us more about it?
Sammy: Well, my mommy puts him on the wall and he sings Jingle Bells!
(I now realize he’s describing a Big Mouth Billy Bass!)
Another Student: Where does Santa leave your presents?
Sammy: He leaves presents under the fish but we have to turn him off or he will scare Santa away!
Me: Well that sounds really cool! Thanks for sharing Sammy!
Photo credit: Amazon
I quickly made a modification to Sammy’s snowflake and put a large loop at the top so it could hang around Billy’s neck.
The last day of school before our Christmas vacation some of the students brought me presents. Working with students and families from around the world always makes for very interesting gifts, but this is one year I will never forget. One of the students- not Sammy, gave me a Big Mouth Billy Bass!
The moral of this story is embrace the beliefs and traditions of all the students in your classroom and never say “that’s really cool” unless you’re prepared to write a thank you note that reads “thank you for the lovely singing fish”.
What are some things you do in your classroom during the month of December to include all students?
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