Most schools will go on winter break soon which means that teachers will be rounding out their actual standards and moving into fun holiday activities. There is nothing wrong with doing fun stuff right before a break. Your students have likely come to expect it which makes it kind of hard not to. The week before winter break is actually one of the few times that both students and teachers view fondly. Both sides are ready to be done with each other and happy to engage in less stressful activities as time winds down. However, it is important to remember one key point as all of this transpires: Not all of your students celebrate Christmas.
Many schools have already adjusted to this fact. Things that were called “Christmas _______” when I was a kid are called “Winter _______” now. A few years ago, the phrase “Happy Holidays” started to be used in place of “Merry Christmas” in some settings. Predictably there are people who hate those developments, but they serve a valuable purpose: inclusivity. In a classroom setting, you never want students to feel left out. Basing your entire last week of school around a holiday that they don’t celebrate is a great way to do just that.
This doesn’t mean you can’t talk about Christmas. Christmas is the most marketed and commercialized holiday there is. It will be no secret in the classroom what holiday is coming up but don’t make it the entire focus. Talk about Christmas as well as other winter holidays like Hanukkah. Students should know about a variety of holidays, and teachers can link learning about various holidays to academic standards.
Even if all the students in your class do actually celebrate Christmas, they may not celebrate it the same way. Some families don’t celebrate the secular aspects; some don’t celebrate the religious aspects.
Some of your students who claim to celebrate it might not celebrate it at all but have learned to pretend to not feel left out. I found this out my second year of teaching when a student invited me to a ceremony at his mosque. I wondered why he was always talking about his Christmas list and Santa Claus but it became obvious when I looked back at my “lesson plans” for that week that he was just trying to fit in. The next year he was more secure in his own beliefs and didn’t pretend to celebrate it but also my pre-winter break plans didn’t necessitate him doing so either.
Every time I write something about this someone responds like I am ushering in the downfall of western civilization. I am not anti-Christmas, but teachers should be mindful that there are 30 different humans in their classrooms. Teachers can have fun before the break without 5 days of non-stop Christmas movies and assignments.