When You Have Students Who Don't Celebrate the Holidays

What do you do when you have students who don't celebrate the holidays?

I almost didn't write this post because I know that it is a sensitive topic. I was a little afraid that I might upset people and get angry mail.

But this conversation needs to be had.

I have seen several Facebook posts where teachers are asking what to do if they have students who do not celebrate the holidays. Some of the responses are helpful and others just make me so sad. I have seen people say things like, "I'm going to celebrate Christmas in my classroom anyway because that one kid's beliefs aren't more important than my own. I'm not going to let him ruin it for everyone." 😳

They are right. The one student's beliefs are not MORE important than her's. But his beliefs are JUST AS important. 

I personally believe that we need to love all of our classroom babies. That means I don't do things in my classroom that make a student feel disrespected or left out. And I don't feel that respecting the differences in my classroom ruins it for the others. I think that it makes them richer.

I still think we can have fun in our classrooms! Here are some tips that have helped me to respect different cultures and beliefs while still making the rest of my class feel like we are celebrating.

1. Talk to the Parents


Before you get all freaked out, have a conversation with the parents. 

Every family is going to feel a little different than the other. Ask what the family is comfortable with. Ask what past teachers have done. Ask what the parents do not want their child to do. Ask if they will be at school the day before break. Ask if it ok for you to put holiday decorations up in the classroom. 

Get the details before you start stressing.

2. Respect the Student

Our beliefs or traditions are no more important than those of this student. Don't make them feel like they are being punished! It breaks my heart when I hear of teachers who send these students out of the classroom or give them busy work. 

Instead, use this opportunity to teach your students about diversity. It is a great opportunity to learn about how different cultures and religions celebrate holidays around the world. We aren't all the same and that is part of our beauty! 

3. Adapt and Get Creative

I know that you want to make the holidays special for your class. I totally get that. And if you get creative (and chat with this student's parents about what they are ok with), you can do lots of fun things together. 

How about focusing on reindeer? You can do animal research papers about reindeer. 

How about focusing on snow? You can learn about states of matter and do some fun art projects.

How about focusing on holidays around the world? You can learn about geography and different cultures.

The rest of your class will feel like you are celebrating the holidays even if they don't have a class elf on the shelf. However, the kiddos who can't celebrate will still be included and not made to feel uncomfortable. It's fun for everyone!

I know that everyone is not going to agree with me. I respect that. I just hope that you will think about ways to make every student in your class feel like they are part of your classroom family during the month of December. Please don't send angry mail! 

Have a Not So Wimpy day,