Should I have a Christmas tree?

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by myKroom, Nov 30, 2010.

  1. myKroom

    myKroom Habitué

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    Nov 30, 2010

    At my last school it was our choice how we wanted to decorate for the holidays, everyone did what they wanted. I never put up a tree because I didn’t feel the need and didn’t see the point in doing so at school. The kids get enough of this at home and many schools don’t even allow it.

    My new district puts up Christmas trees in all the classrooms. None of us Kindergarten teachers wanted the school trees. We all have small trees of our own that we would rather use. I also said I didn’t want one because I have a student who is a Jehovah’s Witness.

    My P came in yesterday afternoon and asked me again why I didn’t want a tree. I said I had a Jehovah’s Witness and I wasn’t sure how her family would feel about it and I didn’t want to make her uncomfortable. My P then told me that she would hate for the “other kids” or families to get upset because they are the only class without a Christmas tree due to just “one student” being Jehovah’s Witness! She then went into a talk about how this is her favorite time of year and she always loved doing holiday activities with her kids at this time. She seemed very concerned that the “other kids” could miss out on all these activities because of “one student”.

    I’m conflicted and frustrated! I don’t like how my P pretty much segregated this student because of their faith. I also felt like she was telling me I HAD to have a tree without coming out and saying it. I know everyone else is doing it and this is clearly something that seems tradition in the school…but I also don’t feel that I should make this student feel uncomfortable just so everyone else can have a Christmas tree. My classroom is meant to be a conducive learning environment for EVERYONE! I can differentiate my activities and get holiday stuff in with ALL my kids!

    -Do I need to have a tree?
    -How do you decorate for the holidays?
    -Any helpful suggestions from anyone who is or has Jehovah’s Witness students.
     
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  3. cheerfulfifi

    cheerfulfifi Rookie

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    Nov 30, 2010

    I had a Jehovah's Witness student my first year and I still put up my classroom Christmas tree (it's small) because I didn't see why the other students should not have something up just because of one student (sorry that's going against what you said in your post). However, I was in constant contact with the parents of the Jehovah's Witness student about what I had planned to do in my classroom as far as holiday activities and they told me what they felt comfortable with him doing. I had to modify a lot of activities and we didn't do as much as I do now. He also was given the ability to miss school on the last 2 days to miss all of the holiday movies and parties with a religious or educational field trip excuse thanks to the principal.
    I would suggest putting up the tree only if YOU want to. Then get in contact with those parents and find out their comfort level of activities. My biggest modification was doing Winter activities versus Holiday activities.
     
  4. Rox

    Rox Cohort

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    Nov 30, 2010

    I don't celebrate Christmas, but the pressure/admonishment is unbelievable sometimes!

    A lesson on tolerance of other customs could be in order. Invite the principal to observe on that day! ;)

    You have very valid points, and I really doubt that the students will feel left out for not having a tree. Perhaps you could have a class discussion on this. Bring it out in the open that some people's beliefs may be intrusive to others. Perhaps the JW (and the family) will be okay with having the tree in the room. Perhaps the students will speak up and demand there be no Christmas tree in the room out of respect for the individual.

    I usually teach about how different cultures celebrate/don't celebrate the holidays.
     
  5. kcjo13

    kcjo13 Phenom

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    Nov 30, 2010

    I think your P was probably out of line, but I don't feel offended when I see a menorah, or a kinara, or any other religion/holiday symbol. Perhaps you can put some of these symbols and objects up as well?
     
  6. Peachyness

    Peachyness Virtuoso

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    Nov 30, 2010

    I'm sorry but your P is out of line here. Who cares if this is her favorite holiday. Is this a public school?

    Now, let's say you do end up getting the tree in your room. Instead of putting christmassy things up in it, how about decorating the tree with non-christmas themes. Take this opportunity to teach them about the animals and insects that may live in the tree, about plant life, etc. Put up pictures of animals that they drew on and below the tree. That way, you can still have a tree and decorate it.
     
  7. myKroom

    myKroom Habitué

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    Nov 30, 2010

    Thanks for your input!! :)

    I am planning on talking to the family anyway about some other questions. They are very nice and very helpful; I'm sure they won't mind. I do typically talk about how everyone celebrates the holidays differently. So this will definitely be in my plans. I was just shocked that my P was putting such importance and emphasis on it! You are right Peachy...just because it is her favorite holiday, doesn't mean it is mine! She really doesn't like confrontation, so for her to come in and specifically talk to me over something like a Christmas tree just shocked me!

    Ultimately, I feel that it should be my decision to make, not the district, P, parents, etc. If they want justification, I will give them my justification...but I don't feel I should be pressured into it.
     
  8. Em_Catz

    Em_Catz Devotee

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    Nov 30, 2010

    :yeahthat:

    I think you should do what makes you feel most comfortable. I have Christian, Jewish and Muslim kids in my room, so when I put up the tiny tree in my room, I try to decorate it with little ornaments that represent each religion and different cultures.

    We have quite a few hispanic kids in 1st grade this year, so I put up little flags on the tree to represent their respective countries.
     
  9. gigi

    gigi Groupie

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    Nov 30, 2010

    One year, after Christmas, I left the tree up and we turned it into a "mitten" tree. We read the book by Jan Brett and made mitten decorations for it. Most importantly, I asked for donations of mittens and gloves for the tree, (we then made a graph showing mittens vs gloves, colors etc.), and then donated them. Would that be something you could do?
     
  10. shouldbeasleep

    shouldbeasleep Enthusiast

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    This is exactly what I was thinking! I think Alvin Tresselt has a few wonderful books--one about a mitten in a tree and one called "The Dead Tree" that talks about decomposition in a beautiful way. It doesn't have to be about gift giving, but the tree could get decorated as a tribute to itself. (Huh? What's shouldbe saying? Some liberal 1960's hippie stuff?)
     
  11. Blue

    Blue Aficionado

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    I have worked in schools that do not celebrate any holidays--and loved it. There was never a concern that someone would be offended.

    I agree that you, as the teacher, should decide how to decorate and handle the holiday. I am surprised that a school allows Christmas trees in the classroom.
     
  12. MandaNicole01

    MandaNicole01 Habitué

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    LOVE THIS IDEA! I'm so going to do this!!!:) I need to find a place to put a tree. Do you have a picture of this with mittens!? I'd love to see it!

    My question: WHERE in the world do you fit a tree!? I seriously don't have room. I do have a very small fiber optic tree I used while in the dorms...not big enough for an ornament or anything...just sits on a bookshelf.

    I had a JW last year and I put up all the usual decorations... She just wasn't allowed to have her work displayed with holiday displays. Or do the fun ornament crafts, etc. I mean, the mall has Christmas decorations out and I bet she still shops there. I was less concerned about that aspect. However, I was in CONSTANT contact via email with her mom as to what she could/couldn't do...I gave her alternate activities but still did the other stuff with the students...We made a reindeer ornament with popsicle sticks and she made a snowflake "hanger"...ornaments are not allowed. I have found the way you word things make all the difference with JW! We made applesauce ornaments but called them air fresheners...that you could hang in the car, on a tree, etc. She could do that...totally acceptable!:)

    I went off topic, but I feel like you should only put up a tree if you want to.
     
  13. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Living in a very liberal part of the country, I am always wowed by stories like yours. It would be viewed as totally insensitive to put a Christmas tree in a classroom at my school. Even my young students would be vocally opposed to singling out one holiday and celebrating it at school, even the one they celebrate. We do study winter festivals of light - and invite families to share their traditions. See this post for details if you are interested.
     
  14. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Sorry, forgot to say: "one student" is as important as all the others. No more so, no less so.
     
  15. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Dec 1, 2010

    I'm a Catholic teacher in a Catholic School.

    My homeroom has a tree, a creche, a nativity picture, and a letter from Santa on the bulletin board.

    That's OK-- my kids all share the same faith and customs I do.

    But I would be VERY unhappy to hear that my 3 public school kids had anything similar in their classrooms.

    Celebrate winter-- polar bears and penguins and snow.

    But Christmas is first and foremost a religious holiday. Since not all kids share that religion, it's wrong to impose that holiday on other kids.

    Those kids who celebrate Christmas at home HAVE a tree at home. They have lights and presents and Christmas carols. That's not what they need from school.

    How incredibly isolating it must be to be one of those kids who don't share the beliefs of so many of the other kids. How sad to be thought of as "JUST ONE" student, and by those who are supposed to be looking out for your best interests no less.


    Of all the possible meanings a child could read into Christmas, do we really want the overriding one, even for "just one child" to be one of isolation and exclusion??

    (Oh, and do you want standardized test scores to go up??? How about it we take the Christmas celebrations out of public schools and spend that time on education??)
     
  16. myKroom

    myKroom Habitué

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    THANK YOU for all the support and ideas!!!! I like the flag idea and the mitten idea!! THANK YOU!

    This has just been bothering me ever since it happened! I'm not one to make big deals out of things or to go against the grain. But to have one of my students singled out by my P just rubbed me the wrong way!! It just didn't feel or sound right to me!
     

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