October 8th, 2018
As the holiday season approaches, we look to actively celebrate inclusivity at Selwyn. While Selwyn is a non-sectarian school where we teach a multicultural curriculum, we recognize that certain religious holidays often overshadow others, potentially causing minorities (children especially) to feel isolated. To create an environment where all students feel welcome and represented, we consistently foster an atmosphere of inclusion.
Holiday celebrations can be an excellent opportunity to provide a window into a culture or understand more about a group of people, as well as reinforce the diversity of all people’s experiences. Helping students celebrate this time of year is a wonderful way to bring everyone together to share cultural celebrations and traditions. Students can engage in rich educational experiences by reading about, researching and experiencing different holidays.
An inclusive holiday celebration can help students learn about diversity, as each student and their family will celebrate the holidays differently. Even if all the students in the class are of the same religion or background, they will each observe the holidays in their own way.
By getting to know students’ cultural backgrounds and family traditions, it allows one to more easily relate to their unique customs and celebrations. At Selwyn, we encourage students to share their cultural celebrations and family traditions, as these discussions encourage discovery, and build respect and community in the classroom.
While discussing each individual student’s unique background and holiday experiences, it is also important to discuss universal concepts, like the importance of families, friendships and the role of art, drama, music and symbols to express emotions and to celebrate. These themes explore the commonalities in all cultures and aid in creating an inclusive holiday atmosphere.
In order to ensure that holidays and observances are truly educational, they also need to be inclusive and respectful. Keep in mind that creating an inclusive classroom also means being respectful of students and families who do not participate in celebrations or holidays at all. With thoughtful consideration and planning, the holiday time can also be an opportunity to use a specific holiday to explicitly talk and teach about social issues.
While celebrating a variety of holidays and celebrations can teach and possibly introduce new cultures and practices, it’s important we also address breaking old habits. Even after being exposed to cultural differences, it can be challenging for children to then recognize their words and translate their beliefs properly. For this reason, it is key to point out common phrases and questions like “What did you get for Christmas?” and what they can be replaced with.
Sharing a variety of cultural traditions, customs and stories helps to build a foundation for inclusion, respect and community. We also help students develop their own culturally sensitive skills and appreciate the diversity that our global cultures bring to our lives.