- Why I Say “Yes” to Santa - December 9, 2014
- Should I Stay or Should I Go? - July 16, 2014
- Demo Lesson Tips - May 28, 2014
- Changes that Need to be Made in ESL - March 6, 2014
- Olympic Lessons - February 13, 2014
- Myths About Snow Days - February 6, 2014
- He Said What?! Funny things our kids say... - January 30, 2014
- The Dawn of a New Era in New York City Schools - January 22, 2014
- Push In Versus Pull Out Strategies for English Language Learners (ELL) - December 26, 2013
- Project Based Learning: Giving Up Control - October 29, 2013
Halloween. That holiday that some teacher simultaneously dread and look forward to. Some schools make a big deal of Halloween with parades and costumes of any kind. Some schools make restrictions on costumes and allow only positive and happy costumes like princesses and baseball players. Other schools try to keep it academic by only allowing literary costumes or even math related ones. Sometimes teachers are “strongly encouraged” to dress up. Meaning if you don’t, you will get the hairy eyeball from your principal when you walk in that morning. Plus you get asked multiple times by the children why you’re not in costume. Sometimes, it’s just easier to buy a pair of cat ears than to wear nothing at all.
Besides the costume issue for yourself, you have the students to worry about. That day makes it very difficult to teach. If you are a uniform school, you go from students never having to worry about clothing, to class full of princesses who are comparing tiaras. Distraction is the game of the day. Then add the sugar highs on top of it. Halloween is both a fun and long day of school. But what about the students who don’t celebrate Halloween?
As an ESL teacher, I tend to be hyper aware of how American culture and holidays can effect my students. Every few years I get students who come from cultures that have never heard of Halloween before. Usually I fill them in on how children dress up and get candy. Those students are then excited about it and can’t wait to tell their parents. Other times I get students who themselves are hyper aware of Halloween and only for the reason that they never celebrate. This is usually do to religious reasons. How do you make these students feel included? What about the student that puts others down for celebrating Halloween? I had one student that would accuse others of not being “Christian enough” because they celebrated Halloween. Keep in mind this was a public school and no one was speaking about religion at the time. However, for him this was a religious, not a secular holiday. On top of that, he was young and probably felt left out since he wasn’t allowed to dress up or get candy. The biggest issue here was teaching tolerance to all the students, whether they celebrated Halloween or not. That one student needed to understand that his religion’s choice to not celebrate the holiday did not change the people around him at school. This was tough to convey to such a young, first grade audience.
Tolerance is a great topic to teach this time of year since the holiday season is just beginning. Teaching in a public school prevents me from teaching the religious reasons behind most of the holidays. Instead I teach a little bit about every holiday with an understanding that we are all different. Most of my students celebrate Christmas, so I usually open the lesson with the question, How does your family celebrate Christmas? I usually get a myriad of answers ranging from the food to the types of decorations. This opens the conversation that we all celebrate differently, but that’s ok; we can learn about each other this way. To me teaching in a public school does not mean I can never talk about holidays. They are a part of everyone’s culture and as an ESL teacher, culture is a huge part of my curriculum. Holidays are a chance to learn about each other and how we can learn and work together.
Good luck teaching on Halloween this year! Aren't we lucky it's a weekday this year?