Tips for teaching a Jehovah's Witness child

Discussion in 'Elementary Education' started by DrivingPigeon, Jul 23, 2013.

  1. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    For the first time, I will have a Jehovah's Witness child in my class this year. I know that the child does not know his birthday, and that the parents often complained last year about things that happened in the classroom (even though the first-grade teacher was careful).

    I plan on talking to the child's first-grade teacher to find out some more information. Do any of you have experience with teaching Jehovah's Witness children?
     
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  3. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    I've taught several.

    In your case, I'd contact the parents and directly and ask about their expectations. I know some might not recommend that, but it's what I'd do.
     
  4. HistoryVA

    HistoryVA Devotee

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    Not from a teacher's POV, but as someone whose best friend is a Jehovah's Witness, this is exactly what I'd do. We've talked about what school was like for her as a kid and what'd she do for her future children. She and her family are so open and willing to take about their choices that I imagine they'd be thrilled if you reached out to them with an understanding ear.
     
  5. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    I'm definitely open to this, and will probably contact the parents. My only concern is that the child is a special education student, and, from what I have heard, the parents might have special needs, as well. So, I'm not sure how much I will be able to learn from them...I will definitely make an attempt, though. (I hope that doesn't sound rude. I have just heard that they are sometimes difficult to understand/communicate with.)
     
  6. thirdgradebuzz

    thirdgradebuzz Comrade

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    The few that I've taught have been flexible and easy to work with. Here are some of my experiences:

    The parents did not mind at all having their child being in the room when another child's birthday was acknowledged. (We don't have parties; we just sing and I give out a certificate).

    During seasonal celebrations (Christmas party, Valentine's Day, Halloween) the parents did not want their students to participate. Usually the child had the choice of preferred activity time in a different location.
     
  7. Tasha

    Tasha Phenom

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    That's what had worked for me. Not every family observes in the same way. I changed a lot of my holiday crafts to seasonal activities. My students were still required to be exposed to family and holiday traditions because of state standards and her parents were fine with that. She shared family and religious traditions with the class as well.
     
  8. giraffe326

    giraffe326 Virtuoso

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    They do not say the Pledge of Allegiance. They also do not get into any politics. I had to be careful last year during the election.
     
  9. Proud2BATeacher

    Proud2BATeacher Phenom

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    Every family is different so your best bet is to be in constant contact with the family if something is coming up -- holidays crafts, mother's day, birthdays, concerts, etc...

    My sister didn't let her daughter participate in anything but I have had students who were allowed to participate in our Christmas concert, accept gifts, v-day cards (just didn't give any out) and holiday treats.
     
  10. Zelda~*

    Zelda~* Devotee

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    The families that I know have been thrilled with teachers who skip over holidays and instead focus on seasons, so their child does not have to "sit out". They were fine with 100th day celebrations and generic Pumpkin/Harvest celebrations.

    When in doubt ask. :)
     
  11. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    It's good to hear everyone's experiences, and to know that beliefs vary from family to family. It sounds like this family is a bit more strict with celebrations. For example, the child could not learn about Squanto last year, and he does not know his birthday. I didn't even think of the Pledge of Allegiance, which is a law in my state, so we say it every day.

    Thanks for the info so far, everyone!
     
  12. mrachelle87

    mrachelle87 Fanatic

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    From past experience, I agree! I found that both sets of parents were very positive about my class because they felt that I respected their beliefs.
     
  13. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    I have my first Jehovah's Witness kid this year too. Reading eagerly....
     
  14. YoungTeacherGuy

    YoungTeacherGuy Phenom

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    I have only had one Jehovah's Witness student in my class. It made for an interesting year...made me think about how I could include everyone in class celebrations! For example, in October, we had a Fall Festival (in-class celebration). In December, we had a Winter Wonderland Party (the student did, however, have to work on something else while we made gifts for the kids' parents). I found a way to still have parties/celebrations while including everyone.

    Also, before the school year began, I met with the parents. They were thrilled that I took the time to listen and they seemed relieved when I verbalized the fact that I'm incredibly open-minded.

    Overall, it was a great year. The kids never asked why we weren't celebrating Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc because we celebrated seasons instead.
     
  15. BioAngel

    BioAngel Science Teacher - Grades 3-6

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    Jul 24, 2013

    I would also talk to the parents about how comfortable they are about the child sharing their faith and traditions. It seems like a lot of teachers are avoiding the discussion of tradition and faith and I think the students are losing out when that happens.

    I remember in elementary school my principal would push around a piano on wheels and we were allowed to go out in the hallway and sing Christmas carols- some religious but mostly secular songs. We studied the Jewish holidays too and one year a classmate brought in dreidels and taught us how to play with them, what the symbols meant, etc. I was so thankful she did that because I thought it was exciting to learn something new about a different faith than mine.

    I teach in a Catholic school, but we have people of different faiths in our classrooms and during religion class students learn about the Catholic faith and there is always time to talk about the Jewish faith, Protestant beliefs, Hindu and Buddhism too. In 2nd grade the students have a special day to celebrate the Chinese New Year and have traditional Chinese food made to try out. I applaud what my school is doing because the students are exposed to many faiths, while valuing everybody's faith.

    I'm sure some kiddos would be interesting in learning about what JW's actually believe in. :)
     
  16. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    Jul 24, 2013

    I have had students who are Witnesses, and I have a few colleagues as well (for the "parent" perspective).

    I would definitely ask the parents what they feel comfortable with, because just like any religion, there are varying degrees of adherence to the beliefs. Some parents may not mind if you talk about Santa and Christmas, while other parents may not want it brought up at all. It all depends on the individual family, so I think asking will show them that you respect their beliefs and want to make their child's experience in your class comfortable.
     
  17. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    I have at least one every year. The parents should tell you their expectations, but they sometimes forget. If they don't approach you, I would absolutely approach them. Each JW parent I've had has been incredibly supportive and very happy to work with me to make sure I understand why their child may refuse to do certain things.

    My JW students don't say the Pledge, but they do stand silently and respectfully.

    They can't attend concerts where any religious music will be played.

    You'll have to monitor the stories you read in class and have an alternate assignment just in case.

    I never put up holiday decorations, just seasonal decorations, but I'd rather not celebrate secular holidays in a public classroom, anyway. Lots of different religions at my school.

    Usually, the child will tell you if there is an activity or story they can't participate in.
     
  18. scmom

    scmom Enthusiast

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    I agree about talking to the family because there are different levels of what they are comfortable allowing their children to see. For example, I had one student who was not allowed to be in the room if another child's birthday was being celebrated, while others were okay.
     
  19. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    I use to have my students make patterns with construction paper with a saying about how many days until Christmas. I was able to use different colors and she could still do the project with us.

    She could make the Mother's Day project, but she couldn't give it to Mom, she could give it to Dad. They exchanged "gifts" but not in observance of a holiday.

    Dad was very willing to talk with me. I would run those types of things past him and he would let me know if she could participate. If not, she either colored in her coloring book or played on the computer.
     
  20. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    Oh, I forgot, she had to leave the room while we sang happy birthday, but as long as I removed the ring or whatever was on top she could have the cupcake. We didn't do parties or treat bags so I don't know how that would have worked.
     
  21. TeacherShelly

    TeacherShelly Aficionado

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    Question: how do you bring it up? I mean how do you know a family is JW? In my case, the student's 1st grade teacher told me. It seems awkward to say, "Teacher F let me know you're family are Jehovah's Witnesses." Or is it ok?
     
  22. Bella2010

    Bella2010 Habitué

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    They'll probably let you know at Open House.
     
  23. ChristyF

    ChristyF Moderator

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    I send a form home at the beginning of the year asking for information like food allergies, skills the family might want to share the class (basket weaving, carving, etc). I also include a section asking if there are holidays they would prefer their child not celebrate. In addition I give them a Millions Word or Less page and ask them to introduce their child to me. I get a ton of information from these two pages. If there is a religious situation I need to know about (JW or others) it usually comes out here.
     
  24. yellowdaisies

    yellowdaisies Fanatic

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    This is an interesting thread. We have MANY Jehovah's Witnesses at our school. Almost every class ends up having at least one. I had one last year. The parent told me at Parent Orientation at the beginning of the year. Some things to consider:

    - my student could not have his own birthday acknowledged or celebrated, but it was ok with the family for me to post it on my birthday chart. He couldn't sing to the other kids but he could eat the treat. I've had students in the past who were not allowed to eat birthday treats.

    - He did not say the pledge, but he did stand with us. The other kids did ask why, so that led into a very basic conversation about how people believe different things, etc. it was never an issue again.

    - He did make gifts for his family for Christmas etc, but he made an alternative that wasn't holiday themed. I figured it was fine to give his parents a generic gift.

    - he couldn't listen to any read alouds about any holidays. This was the toughest. He would read his own book in the library during these read alouds. I talked to him ahead of time, and he was fine with that solution.

    - Parties had to be very generic and not holiday themed.

    - I didn't have any holiday specific decorations up, but to be honest that's not uncommon at any school I've been in. We have a very diverse student population in California.

    I agree that maintaining open communication with the parents is very important. The child will also probably let you know when they are uncomfortable with something. My student would speak up if I forgot and started a holiday read aloud or something.
     
  25. Bella2010

    Bella2010 Habitué

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    Reading this thread about the variance of adherence to the religious guidelines makes me shake my head. I was raised as a JW and it was pretty straight forward - we did what the church said we were supposed to do and didn't bend the rules to suit the situation.

    I think it's kind of sad that some aspects of the classroom are altered (I'm not talking about crafts/projects) to accommodate the beliefs of one child. I'm NOT judging the way any teacher chooses to deal with having a JW child. I'm honestly not. To each their own and whatever works out best for an individual teacher is what should be done. Different strokes for different folks.

    I've had two JW kids. I think the parents of one knew I used to be a JW. I make accommodations for them, and I'm very respectful of their views and have gotten along great with the parents. However, I'm not going to change anything I normally do.

    Beth
     
  26. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    How about, "What can I do for your child to make this a successful school year?"

    Actually, that's a great question for ALL parents :lol:
     
  27. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    That's how I feel, but I don't want to sound rude or inconsiderate. My calendar headers are somewhat holiday-related (hearts for February, shamrocks for March, etc.), and I don't think it's fair to expect me to change my decorations for one child. I don't "decorate" for the holidays, but I do hang a cute little turkey on the door at Thanksgiving, for example.

    Two years ago I had a student who was Christian, and did not celebrate certain things. His dad was the pastor of a non-denominational church, but they seemed a bit more on the conservative side (his mom only wore long skirts/dresses, and wore her hair long). They were the sweetest family ever! Anyway, I did not even know the boy did not celebrate Halloween until the day of. During the week, I had mentioned Halloween, had some games out for the kids to play during math, and little things like that. It seemed like the child understood his family's beliefs, yet his parents let him participate in regular classroom activities.
     
  28. Tyler B.

    Tyler B. Groupie

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    You should be aware of what the child can or can not participate in, but you don't need to completely rework your class. For example, you can still have a birthday board and tell all students it's optional to participate. Just keep the parents informed about what's going to happen and allow them to excuse their child from participation.

    One year a parent told me that her child doesn't celebrate Halloween since "it's devil worship". I tried to tell her that we don't worship the devil in our class, just have a little party with Halloween decorations, games and snacks, but she told me her daughter could not attend a party like that.

    So I made sure it was just a generic party, which really disappointed the kids. On party day, the parent pulled her child from school so we grimly ate undecorated cookies for nothing.
     
  29. Proud2BATeacher

    Proud2BATeacher Phenom

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    Reminds me of the parent that pulled her child from school because the kg. teacher had the students use their "magic finger" to write letters in the air. I had to do a home visit to try to talk her into sending her son back to school but she was adamant that he would not come back because she doesn't want her son to think that magic was real. I guess that magic in cartoons were okay because she had over 50 Disney DVDs displayed in her living room. :dizzy:

    Sorry for the :hijack:
     
  30. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Virtuoso

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    Talk to the parents!

    I have some parents who are quite flexible with what we teacher, and others are very much NOT okay with some of the things that we do.

    If you ask for one, they will bring you a booklet that outlines the beliefs and some do and don't items for educating their children.

    I teach older students, and they are usually pretty good about letting me know if they have an issue with anything that we do.
     
  31. yellowdaisies

    yellowdaisies Fanatic

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    I think this is also a regional thing. At the schools I've been in within CA, holidays are pretty downplayed. We've got a diverse population here, and it's not just Jehovah's Witnesses who don't celebrate many holidays, especially Halloween. It's very common for schools in my area to celebrate holidays a different way, like having kids dress up as book characters and doing a literacy festival instead of regular Halloween celebrations.

    I don't change my entire classroom for one student. We don't really do holiday decorations at my school anyway. We had a party before Christmas break where we decorated Christmas cookies. I made horse shaped cookies for my child who doesn't celebrate because he really liked horses. He did not come to school the day of the party anyway, but I hadn't changed the whole thing for him, just made modifications so be could participate in a different way.

    Again, I think the holiday thing is regional. I've read on here about people having Christmas trees in classrooms and that's VERY uncommon here.
     
  32. Bella2010

    Bella2010 Habitué

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    It's been interesting to read about the varying degrees of guidelines parents have for their children. My dad was an elder in the congregation, so that probably had something to do with it, but it was 100% in accordance with the fundamental beliefs when I was growing up.
     
  33. knitter63

    knitter63 Groupie

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    I agree.
     
  34. BumbleB

    BumbleB Habitué

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    That is how my coworker who is a Jehovah's Witness is raising her children. She said that she doesn't want them growing up in a "Witness Bubble" (lol) and has been actively trying to teach them that other people celebrate holidays, they don't, and they can still be around those celebrations without losing sight of their beliefs. I really admire her for that, I think there are many families (not just JW families) who could use a lesson in tolerance.
     
  35. Bella2010

    Bella2010 Habitué

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    I've been thinking about this one. That seems kind of silly to me (on the parents' part, not yours). :) It's still a b-day cupcake.
     
  36. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    I admit I roll my eyes (internally...haha) at some of the exceptions made by some JW families. I realize many religions do the same, but it somehow strikes me as more odd with JW families who obviously go against the grain in many ways. For example, this past year my JW students belonging to one family couldn't listen to any story remotely related to Christmas. One wasn't at all about Christmas but a snowman, but since this snowman was animated they couldn't listen. But cupcakes with Christmas-themed decorations and candy canes were specifically allowed by parents.

    :confused:
     

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