Holidays in the Schools?

Posted January 26, 2015

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by Amy Lemieux, Director

I have always been opposed to celebrating holidays in schools for many reasons. I attended an elementary school where about 20% of the students were Jewish, yet we did Secret Santas every year, Santa came to our classroom, and we sang Christmas songs. Despite throwing in one dreidel song, it always felt wrong, though I was too young to articulate why.
Once I became an elementary teacher, my aversion to holidays in the schools intensified. I saw the students who felt left out because it wasn’t “their” holiday, the ones who couldn’t afford to buy an elaborate Halloween costume or give everyone in the class a goody bag full of candy to go with a mass-produced valentine. I resented the chaos and poor behavior each holiday created and felt powerless to prevent it, as holidays were celebrated school-wide. As an educator who regularly noted how far behind U.S. students were and how large the racial achievement gap was, taking many hours or even full days away from learning to celebrate holidays felt unproductive and trivial. Happily, my school’s new principal felt like I did and as quickly as she could, she changed our school’s approach to the holidays.
Why, then, do we celebrate holidays at All Seasons?
Celebrating the holidays at Inver Glen and All Seasons has changed my attitude entirely because we do it so differently! Here, celebrating feels natural and authentic because it is; it happens within the context of a community. With each celebration, we are able to tell the children, “These are things the grandmas and grandpas did when they were little.” The children dye eggs with the grandmas and grandpas and then the seniors hide the eggs for the children to find. We sing old songs the seniors grew up singing – holiday songs and many others. Our Halloween parade has a real audience. Our Mardi Gras parade, complete with floats designed on tricycles and real zydeco instruments, is only complete because we are doing it for someone else and spread such joy up and down the hallways as we pass out beads. Next month we will spend several days hand-making old fashioned valentines for the grandmas and grandpas who live in the memory care units. The children will carefully and painstakingly write the names of the seniors on the valentines and deliver them in person. Celebrating the holidays here has been a source of genuine pride and joy for everyone.

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Small Things

Posted January 9, 2015


Sometimes it is small things that make the difference—in one case, to empower a teacher and extend a child’s learning. We adults tend to think we need to fix things, solve problems, smooth the path–and these actions must be BIG and RIGHT. In reality, most adults and children do a better job of charting their own courses than we understand.
Today, a few brief, encouraging conversations resulted in a teacher taking on increased responsibility to implement a series of activities for her students. She tapped into her interest in art to research best practices for art curricula for toddlers. The first activity was a smashing success!
One of the young artists announced he was “done” after a couple minutes. He’s a child who’s uncomfortable getting messy, had gotten paint on his hands, and was more interested in washing them off than continuing to paint. A teacher encouraged him to return, and painted alongside him, talking about the colors they were using. Their colors mixed together to create more colors, and they experimented with using their fingers and hands over the intriguing bubble wrap surface, even popping the bubbles as they went. The child was happily engaged, exploring the effects of the paint and the tools of brush and finger and hand. It only took a few seconds of the teacher’s interested company to deepen the satisfaction of the experience. Everyone was happy.

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