Questions about Jehovah Witness and how to handle the holidays.

Discussion in 'Preschool' started by zoey'smom, Dec 4, 2011.

  1. zoey'smom

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    I teach Preschool and Kindergarten. I have been teaching for 13 years now and this is my first time I have had a Jehovah Witness. I am not sure what I can and can not do when it comes to the holidays. Any sugestions on how to handle the following: decorating the class room, holiday crafts, Holiday centers, Holiday snacks, holiday books and other activities to do with Santa or Reindeer. I usually do a count down to Christmas, is this out of line? The little girl already told me she does not like Christmas. I do not want to offend anyone, but I am not sure about Jehovah Witness beliefs. I am going to talk to mom tomorrow, but I want to see what others do at their school.
    The Principal already told me that the preschool will not be able to participate with a 12 days of Christmas thing, where the whole school dresses up to go along with a Christmas Carol or song. They will be wearing hats and scarfs one day and pj's another day. My favorite is the day where everyone is going to dress like their Grandma for Grandma got run over by a reindeer. So what can I do???? Help
     
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  3. comaba

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    I've had Jehovah's Witnesses as students. As I understand it, they don't celebrate any holidays, even birthdays. They also don't participate in activities that involve iconic representations of holidays. So, the holiday centers and crafts with Christmas trees, Santas and reindeer probably won't be acceptable.

    The students I had last year didn't say the Pledge, and could not participate in an activity about US flag. I tried to be very sensitive to and aware of their beliefs, but I slipped on that one. :(

    My district no longer has holiday parties during the school day, but years ago I remember students whose parents pulled them out of school on the afternoon of the party.

    I guess my advice is to show/discuss EVERYTHING you want to do with the mom. She may or may not be okay with substituting activities just for her daughter, but it doesn't hurt to ask.

    Oh, one other thing that is prohibited is anything that has to do with witchcraft, witches, and I think magic. Even if you switched to a winter theme, there might even be a problem with Frosty the Snowman.

    Whatever you find out, please post. I'm curious to know what I missed or got wrong!
     
  4. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    I had one years ago. She could make the paper chains that we made, as long as it wasn't red & green. I let her choose what colors to use. She could do generic snowmen. If we did a holiday color by number I had to find a generic one.

    I did a lot of talking with Dad that year to see what she could & couldn't do.
     
  5. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I think that, in a public school, it's a far better idea to celebrate winter than Christmas or Hannuka or Kwanza.

    I don't blame her for hating Christmas. It must be very hard to be 5 and not be a part of everyone else's celebration.
     
  6. WaProvider

    WaProvider Fanatic

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    If you are in the preschool class and you want to dress up like a grandparent....then read family based stories and do a family theme. The Doorbell Rings happens to be right here (due to a lesson) and it has a Grandma! Skip the Reindeer part and just do the family. It is acceptable to discuss family visiting and how much you love family......in your classroom don't sing the song and don't do reindeer projects.

    When everyone dresses in PJ's and drinks hot cocoa for the Polar Express day......do the PJ and cocoa part and don't do the movie. There are far cooler things to do in PreK than spend that much time watch TV anyway.

    Want to do Grinch Stole Christmas dress up day? Let them wear the costume for you Favorite Seuss Character and bring the book along. Very few will come in full green gear anyway. Then read Dr Seuss all day and the other classes can worry about The Grinch. Rhyming is a great activity for the Pre K set anyway. I am with Alice......Christmas is hard to do in a public setting. The secular holiday isn't even what some of those who do celebrate Christmas will be talking about anyway. Macy's gets enough money......Don't worry about them they will be fine.
     
  7. ash_sk8s

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    We talked about holidays a LOT in my graduate program last year. And a common practice is the Jehovah's Witness kid having to go somewhere else in the school while the class held their classroom party. :( I definitely recommend talking to the mom a lot to find out super clearly what is okay and what is not okay. Is the child allowed to do a similar but different activity (like the generic stuff posted above), or would the mom rather the child not be in the classroom at all if a holiday-based activity is going on?
     
  8. Cerek

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    Discussing the plans with mom is the best approach. Just be sure to have some alternative activities you can offer and let mom make some suggestions as well.

    One of my HS classmates was a Jehovah's Witness, but most of us were unaware of this until we had a Christmas Party the last day before Christmas Break. We felt very badly that we did not know our classmates religious beliefs. We offered to change it to a "Winter Break" party, but the girl chose to just leave the room during the party. We didn't have any Christmas decorations up or sing any carols. We just had a class party with chips, drinks, etc.

    Had we known of the conflict ahead of time, we could have been much better prepared. :(
     
  9. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    I have a JW student in my class this year. I had his brother three years ago. The parents requested me because they know I will be respectful of their beliefs. The mom volunteers in my class once or twice a week.

    Basically, he can be in the room for most anything we do. If it's a project or activity, I just need something to substitute. Also, he's free to learn about the history and/or cultural significance of the holiday.

    The other day the students were decorating calendars for the month of December. Most were doing Christmas trees, Santas, reindeer, etc. A snowman would have been fine but he didn't want to do that.

    I knew he like drawing airplanes and ships. So I let him draw the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor for his December calendar.

    His mom thought it was hilarious.
     
  10. Tasha

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    I have a student this year and from what I have found out, she is required to learn the history and symbols of holidays, but she doesn't participate in the crafts. Parent's frequently have varying stances on what they want their children to do, so talking to the parents is the best course. I have several generic winter and gingerbread activities for her to complete during various activities that our class participates in.
     
  11. zoey'smom

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    Thank you everyone. I am going to try to talk to Mom tomorrow. My main concern is, how 3, 4 and 5 years are going to understand why she has to leave the room for a story or do something different. I am doing a space theme this week and next week is transportation, where I will focus on trains and the Polar express. I will let you know tomorrow what mom says.
     
  12. MissScrimmage

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    Talking to the parents is definitely the best first step!
     
  13. AnonyMS

    AnonyMS SpEd Para! BASE room aide! RTI Facilitator!

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    Holiday or Christmas?

    If you are "holiday" decorating then you would be decorating for ALL the winter holidays.

    If you are "Santa" or "reindeer" decorating then you are really just "Christmas" decorating.

    I would ask the mom what is acceptable for her.
     
  14. AnonyMS

    AnonyMS SpEd Para! BASE room aide! RTI Facilitator!

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    :agreed:
     
  15. AnonyMS

    AnonyMS SpEd Para! BASE room aide! RTI Facilitator!

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    If the family is observant, then the child will understand why she is doing a different activity (or leaving the room if that is how you choose to address it).
     
  16. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    WA, you rock! These are awesome suggestions that respect the child and fit. In with the school theme. Love it!
     
  17. zoey'smom

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    We do focus more on Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. In preschool we make christmas trees, santa's Reindeer, stars, candy canes, Gingerbread men and tree ornaments. I know I will not be able to a lot of this or need to change how I do it. Glitter stars should be ok since we are talking about space this week.

    I teach in a small town and honestly we don't have too many Jehovahs witnesses around. Most of families are christian or grew up that way. I want to be respectful to this family. I think it is hard for the other families to understand. We made all kind of things last year and this year we will not, or do it different so the little girl can have a choice to do it or not. I thought if I do it during free choice time she can choose not to do it or do something different. I will talk to mom tomorrow and see what she thinks. They are a really nice family and I think she will be fine with me asking.
     
  18. JustMe

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    Sincere question. What is or are the standards, exactly, that state students must learn holiday symbols and traditions? It's not that I don't think they exist, buy I'm curious about how they're phrased. It does surprise me that kindergarten students are to learn these things.

    Sometimes I wonder if JWs and others are less than impressed with the whole "celebrate winter" route. Like "holiday trees". I'm not saying I disagree with winter celebrations, but what how they are viewed. I also wonder if ten or twenty years from now even winter celebrations and harvest days will be found in public schools...
     
  19. cutNglue

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    I grew up with holidays being acceptable and celebrated in school. It is such a part of our culture I think to think we have to continue doing so. I admit, I love this time of the year and it would be natural for me to want to embrace it. I can't imagine doing otherwise. Yet there are many mentions on these boards where it is common practice at various schools to not include these and the kids survive. I think it is harder for US to let go.

    I don't think it is fair to expect a child to exclude themselves or do something different when in reality, at least at my school, it is not an actual curriculum standard (though we have some we use to justify these lessons). After all, it is supposed to be about separation of church and state. Even if the parents are observant and willing, I don't think it is fair that we ask them for permission to exclude their child. We could say we are teaching a variety of things, etc. but really we are culturally ingrained to celebrate these holidays and school is a big part of our memories of that.

    I know it has to be hard but I'm more inclined to suggest that not only you talk to mom but you go with ideas that aren't related to the holidays. It's the respectful thing to do.

    I know various people have their own perspectives on this and it is not an easy decision to make.

    WA has some good suggestions. I will keep thinking and see if i can help wih ideas too.
     
  20. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I agree completely Cut.
     
  21. bandnerdtx

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    It's so nice to see that the elementary teachers on AtoZ are so willing and happy to accommodate students from all backgrounds. That's not always the case. You guys should be very proud of what you're doing in your classrooms. :hugs:
     
  22. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    I wouldnt do holiday trees but I'm okay with the winter theme in general. Our curriculum actually states that we are to talk about seasons, seasonal activities and generalities related to temperature.

    You could teach about...

    Winter animals (including adaptations)
    What we wear in the winter (yes, kids are still figuring this out)
    (lots of sorting math activities could be done here).
    Snow science and 5 senses related to snow
    Snowflake art
    Ways to keep warm (hot chocolate, fireplace, coats, hats, etc)
    Winter sports (we did a Winter Olympic event in the gym wih multiple classes one year)

    There are lots of things you can do.
     
  23. zoey'smom

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    Thank you. I think because we do something for long and it was acceptable, we continue to do it. I am going to look a little closer at the standards. I think for me this is also what I grew up with. That is why I am having so much trouble with it. Preschool is all about themes and I can find other themes to teach the things I need too.
     
  24. WaProvider

    WaProvider Fanatic

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    We must have a very high proportion of JW families. All of my own children have had several (not one or 2 families) as they moved through the grades. As allergy children I had a hard time getting accommodations since the initial thought was "they can just go and sit in the library with the JW kids and miss the party." I had to spend a lot of time with the parents and the children and my own children discussing what they wanted so I could go and argue with the school.

    I finally got pretty good at it. If the schools would listen to the parents and I and make the changes I could find a sub food and the JW children could be in the room.....no hurt feelings.

    Thanks for noticing czacza......I really do like the idea of making the learning of the room the focus of the party.....like the ideas I suggested.

    Blue I am not quite ready to give up all of the holiday.....but it is very light here and I can TOTALLY see the no holiday concept. We have a ton of fun in my program.....we do a ton of holidays. We just do them in a glancing way.

    I really can help you fit into your school themes and avoid having the JW child sit in time out for a month.
     
  25. Grammy Teacher

    Grammy Teacher Virtuoso

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    I was a JW for 10 years so ask me if you have any specific questions. I know the religion inside and out!
    I had JW girl last year and although I am not one myself anymore, I knew exactly what to do.
    Most of the above suggestions are correct, some are not, so just ask. One thing that works well is to center the month of December around winter. Yes, you can sing Frosty the Snowman. It's a winter song about a snowman with no mention or indication of Christmas. Make lots of cute snowman art.
    We had a "Winter" themed party so that she could attend. We ate treats and played games. The kids all had a blast with a decorated room, just not santa clauses hanging all over the place!
    We did have a small Christmas tree in our room and the family was fine with that because the child really had nothing to do with it. They said it was fine and that she enjoyed looking at them.
    So, feel free to ask me anything you might be struggling with!
     
  26. WaProvider

    WaProvider Fanatic

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    Wow, what a lovely offer of help Grammy teacher! I love the teamwork on this site!
     
  27. Grammy Teacher

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    Thanks you, Wa! Glad you commented, it makes me feel appreciated!
     
  28. zoey'smom

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    Wow! Thank you so much, Grammy Teacher. As the year goes on I am sure I will have more questions. I knew I would find the answers I needed. I talked to Mom today and she was fine with everything so far. We are doing a space theme and yesterday they could cut out and put glitter on a star. Next week we will do transportation including trains. (I have a class full of boys who love trains) The last day of school before winter break we will watch the movie The polar Express. Mom has chosen not to bring her that day. Thanks again everyone for your comments and help.
     
  29. amakaye

    amakaye Enthusiast

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    I was cursious, so I went looking for our standards (Indiana):
    K.1.2 Identify celebrations and holidays as a way of remembering and honoring people, events and America’s ethnic heritage.
    Example: Identify Thanksgiving, Columbus Day, Grandparent’s Day, and birthdays.

    1.1.5 Identify people and events observed in national celebrations and holidays.
    Example: Celebrations and holidays, such as Thanksgiving; Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; Presidents’ Day; Independence Day; Arbor Day; and Veterans’ Day

    2.1.4 Identify and describe community celebrations, symbols and traditions and explain why they are important. (Individuals, Society and Culture)
    Example: Local and regional festivals, city flags and seals, and community mottos
     
  30. Grammy Teacher

    Grammy Teacher Virtuoso

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    One rule of thumb that usually works for art projects is that they can make anything that is "real," such as turkeys, reindeer (just not a red nosed one!, bunnies (without easter eggs,) pumpkins, but not Jack )" lanterns, etc. Regarding flags and such things, they respect everyone wishes to pledge allegiance, etc, but they do not salute anyone or any "object." It's not that they have anything against the U.S or any other country for that matter, but they do not salute or give patriotism to any object that stand for these things. So, in most cases, it would be o.k. to color or draw a flag and learn about the country it stands for.
     
  31. Sarge

    Sarge Enthusiast

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    :eek:hmy: They actually did that? Was this at parents behest or did they just say "You're JW, so go to the library?"
     
  32. WaProvider

    WaProvider Fanatic

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    These were the students in my own children's classrooms first with my son in public a decade ago and recently with my dd in private school. She didn't attend at the time with JW kids...it was just allergies. I never actually hear them moved to the library. I do know that the parents didn't really get worked with (I only know the parent's side of the story) and that the teachers would say...."Now I need you to gather for the holiday project....oh, Susie, you are due in the library for free read". My own children would be told "please go to the library for free read so we can have snack". We only missed the parties in the beginning of my sons school and last year in my dd class.

    Last year in the private school my dd (a decade younger than my eldest son) was asked to skip a fall party and just in the back of the room because he couldn't eat the food.

    With my first son, I knew we were not going to stay in that library for anymore parties, and I didn't want to fix things for only my student if the others would like to go back. That is how I began to talk to the JW parents. They did want to go back. The parents didn't want to cross their morals and I totally understood, but I thought there might be a middle ground. With THOSE particular group of parents a decade ago I was able to help build a bridge.

    I can say Yes, Sarge it really happens to the allergy kids. The teacher then wouldn't even send me a parent newsletter so I could plan when a party was going to be and "help" so I could deliver sub foods.

    I can say it really did happen a decade ago in public school. I can say the teacher admitted she didn't warn the parent with either a meeting or a note. She said it was because the students would miss too much school.

    I most recently avoided the current public school Kinder teacher who upon an initial interview said she had "teaching snacks" that she wouldn't share a list for (I teach PreK and she thought I might steal the snack ideas she said.....good grief they are Oreo spiders!). So I sent my dd to private school for K and 1st. During 1st at the private school my dd wasn't allowed to eat anything in the classroom EVER. I had to have a full on admin present argument with a touch of heat to allow her to eat identical sub food and help at the party to defend her right to have a party. Yes, she is allergic, but eating happens everyday. She knows to eat the food she brings and she is totally not cheating. I work hard to send identical sub food. She doesn't feel THAT left out...but still a bit. But to have to just sit in the back of the room and watch a party go on? How rude!

    Long story short.......yes they really just sent the JW kids curtly to the library and my own kids were just "sent" with them. If that had been the upshoot of a meeting with the parents OK.....but not the way it happened.
     
  33. Grammy Teacher

    Grammy Teacher Virtuoso

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    It was customary to send the JW to the library during holiday parties. I believe they still do that, but the parents have the option of picking them up for that time.
     
  34. Grammy Teacher

    Grammy Teacher Virtuoso

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    Question...do you feel that's wrong? I'm not sure what you mean.
     
  35. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    Thanks for sharing. I was curious how direct and specific they are.
     
  36. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    ...presuming that the parents happen to be free for that particular half hour.

    I'm not JW. I don't teach kids who are JW. To the best of my knowledge, there are none in the classes of my kids (or if there are, they've found a way to handle things at school so it hasn't been a topic of conversation at home.) I have no vested interest here.

    But it seems there are so many wonderful things we can teach our kids that DON'T exclude a part of the class. Why on earth would we choose to focus on those things that make us different, as opposed to those things that make us similar?

    I don't know of a single Christian child who is "Christmas deprived." They all write their letters to Santa, get their pictures taken with Santa (if they're not too afraid),leave cookies and carrots out-- the whole drill. If Christmas is avoided at school, there's no danger that they won't get enough.

    So this isn't about the kids. It's not about teaching what's necessary-- those parties and projects are NOT teaching what the holiday is about. And if it were, I'm confident the JW kids would be allowed to learn-- as long as they're learning about the celebration as opposed to actually celebrating it. Learning that Christians put up a Christmas tree is a million miles away from having one in a public school classroom, just as reading about a Seder is light years away from actually attending one.

    Again, it simply seems to me that we should be concentrating on those things that makes us alike, not those that separate a few kids from that "classroom community" I read so much about.
     
  37. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    I think it is no surprise that I'm with Alice on this one.
     
  38. Grammy Teacher

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    Most JW will object to their children learning about Christmas and such beliefs. They find it similar to a "bad influence" to be exposed to any of these teachings.
     
  39. Peachyness

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    I'm with Alice and Cut. I find it very sad that we send these children out of the room because they don't believe in the same things as the teacher and other children do.

    How sad. :(

    I've never taught JW before. But I've had children from a variety of religous backgrounds. In my classroom, I celebrated other things.

    For example!:

    For Easter, we celebrated Oviparous Day! My partner teacher and I took those easter eggs but filled them with little plastic animals that lay eggs. We read stories and wrote about oviparous animals.

    For Valentine, we celebrated healthy habits and teeth.

    For Christmas, we kept the focus on gingerbread men and other wintery subjects. But our school did do a lot of xmas related activities. And we did discuss holidays around the world. When I taught fifth grade, we were studying about our heritage as part of our OCR unit. So for our holiday party, we had a heritage party where our kids brought in food that represented their culture. They loved it!

    For Halloween, we kept the focus on spiders and ghosts and spooky things. We mainly did fall activities and an apple theme. And, of course, we learned about The Day of the Dead.

    Before I worked with my partner teacher, I'll be honest. I did do holiday related activities. But after working with her, I learned so much about being creative and meeting all of my students needs.
     
  40. Grammy Teacher

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    I'm happy to see all of you supporting those who have different beliefs. That's the way it should be! I know from personal experiences in the past, how hard it can be to be "different" when raising children in a school that supports the traditional holiday themes and teachers are upset by anyone daring to not participate. Glad none of you are like them.
     
  41. WaProvider

    WaProvider Fanatic

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    Grammy Teacher, I don't know if you were asking me personally if I thought it was wrong to send the kids to the library or not, but I will answer.

    I don't think it is something that is unexpected. I know that the children said they were used to it, but were grumpy while in there. I think it was wrong that MY kids were sent there. I think it is wrong that the teacher just opted for that as the answer rather than discussing first and removing second.

    It isn't the library that I object to for the other families...it was the perceived tone of the dismissal (albeit the perception of my kids). Above all else it was the MY kids who weren't JW at all were also added to the list. I didn't go into the situation trying to reintegrate both sets of kids. I just didn't want to go to bat for my kids and leave the others unasked. When I asked I found that they were willing to go back...with the exceptions. I was already on my way to discuss exceptions so it was not a problem. We are still neighborly with those families from elementary school. My family is still attending that school with my 3rd child and the allergy and JW kids are included in most classes I have run into....just not that kinder room.
     

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