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December Dilemma

(Or How to Celebrate the Season without Offending Anyone)

About This Daily Classroom Special
December Dilemma was written by Julie Dermody, fourth grade teacher at McDougle Elementary School in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City School District in Chapel Hill, NC. 

Before you hang up any holiday decorations or purchase a classroom Christmas tree check with your principal regarding holiday policies (written or unwritten ones.) Although you plan to be sensitive to the traditions and customs of all the children in your classroom, the truth is, you may not be aware of all the different religious beliefs/customs/traditions your students embrace. Our classrooms are becoming more and more multicultural and it can no longer be assumed that if you mention Christmas, Chanukah, and Kwanzaa you have "covered it all." (In fact, some parents prefer that their children not be exposed to discussions regarding differing beliefs.) Several options are available for seasonal celebrations this year that can include everyone. In the lower elementary grades, gingerbread houses and gingerbread "people" are great seasonal topics. See the attachment at the end of this How-to for some great book recommendations as well as websites! Try to include parents in the planning and organizing of special events as much as possible. Not only will it be helpful to you, but parents also enjoy being part of the classroom experience. (Be sure not to give sole responsibility to parents for planning celebrations. They may not be as sensitive to the multicultural issues as you are.)

It will be helpful for you, as well as your students, to maintain established routines as much as possible over the next few weeks. The children’s homes are probably unusually busy or "stressed" getting ready for various holidays.

Gift giving can be a dilemma as well. Again, check with your fellow teachers regarding giving students gifts. Often whether to give a gift to your students is an individual decision and most often based on finances. Possible ideas if you would like (and are able to give a small gift) include: book club coupons for free books (book clubs have special promotions on these), a special pencil,  or a special game or bean bag chair for the class as a class gift. You could also make "coupons" for gifts for your students (e.g. turn homework in late, special lunchtime with the teacher.)

When given a gift from a student, you might want to place it aside and open it later. By doing this, you can open it in private and other children will not be embarrassed by their lack of a gift. If a child expresses a wish that they had a gift for you, suggest that they draw you a picture or write a poem. Be sure to write thank you notes (addressed to the child) for any gifts that you receive. You may want to have a generic thank you printed on computer paper (Thank you for the wonderful gift! It was very thoughtful of you. I hope you have a fantastic winter break.) You can leave a space to hand write a personal note on the letter ( computer "stationary" is less expensive than thank you cards).

Plan your special classroom parties and activities for the day before the last day of school. That way your plans are not ruined if you have a snow day on the last day. It will also ensure a calmer day for everyone on the actual "last day before vacation."

As the weeks between Thanksgiving and winter break fly by, be sure not to plan too many school related tasks (e.g. grading papers, planning new units) for your own vacation. You need to rest and rejuvenate.

Gingerbread Web Sites

Recommended web sites include this wonderful all-around page:

Kids: make your own gingerbread house

Aunt Jayne’s gingerbread page

Kindergarten Connection’s gingerbread page

Victoria’s KinderKorner gingerbread page

Books: Gingerbread Unit

Non traditional tales:
The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith 0-590-46627-5
The Gingerbread Boy Richard Egielski 0-060-26030-0
Gingerbread Baby Jan Brett 0-399-23444-6

Traditional Tales
The Gingerbread Man Barbara McClintock 0-439-05772-8
The Gingerbread Man Eric Kimmel 0-823-41137-0
The Gingerbread Man Eric Suben 1-562-93555-0
The Gingerbread Man Schmidt 0-590-08794-0


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