Saturday, December 13, 2008

A New Grinch in Town...

I will begin this post by quoting a letter that was placed in our mailboxes at school last Friday.  I assure you, these are not my words...

"Let's take a look at the Christmas issue first.  Many of you feel that not allowing our students to celebrate Christmas by doing "fun" things at school is wrong or prison-like.  I want you to put yourself in MY shoes.  I too stress over eliminating holiday fun from school.  However, as an instructional leader, I know that education has changed dramatically.  School today is about growing students academically; rigor and accountability.  We often discuss how many of our students struggle to read, write or do mathematics.  How can making a gingerbread house, creating a Christmas tree or reindeer, watching a Christmas movie, or making Christmas crafts or ornaments resolve those issues?  They can't!  If you Google "Christmas" or look it up in the dictionary, you will find that Christmas is an annual holiday celebrated on December 25 that marks and honors the birth of Jesus.  Christmas is NOT Santa Claus, Christmas trees, stockings, reindeer, ornaments, etc.  Those are only symbols or mythological characters created for the holiday.  So where does the North Carolina Standard Course of Study address the birth of Jesus---it DOESN'T.  And although "Christmas" cannot be taught or symbolized in school, due to the religious context, it can be shown and offered in many ways throughout our school within your own HEART of those you touch on a daily basis.  We SHOULD bring the "spirit of Christmas" into our classrooms and school EVERYDAY; not just this time of year."

Can't you just picture the devious, green, furry Grinch stuffing all of Christmas into his large bag and preparing to drive his sleigh off the cliff? 

Let me begin by stating that I do agree that one of our main focuses in education is obviously the academic growth of our students, hasn't that always been the purpose of education?   I also agree that we should never force our beliefs onto our students.  However, how do we ignore Christmas?  How do we prevent our children from sharing in the joy of this season?  This is our culture here in America.  Failure to share these "symbols" with our students is failure to teach them about our culture.  Is that not educational?  Part of the curriculum of some grade levels include teaching about Christmas around the world.  To this, we were told to "teach 'HOLIDAYS' around the world and to leave America out because we already know how we celebrate here."  Are you kidding me?  So, let me get this straight...we can teach about Kwanzaa, Hanukah, and the beliefs of other cultures, but not our own?  Not only has our school refrained from doing any holiday related crafts, they have completely wiped Christmas from our school.   We were lead to believe that this is coming down from the state and federal government; however, every other elementary school, that I'm aware of, still have signs of Christmas in their school.  In fact, I've been told that even the county office is decorated in twinkling lights.  If it is good enough for us, why isn't it good enough for the children we teach? At my school, the decorations from previous years were boxed up and sent home.  I no longer work at a school, I am the employee of an institution.  Just take a stroll down my hallway.  No more Christmas books, trees, wreaths, or even snowmen.  These educators are allowed to teach and discuss Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and any other culture celebrating during this season; however, our traditional teachings are not allowed.  Hmmm...shameful, isn't it?  

Many of you are probably not even aware that this is taking place.  Take the time to ask questions, raise awareness, stand firm in what you believe should be taught, shared, and enjoyed in your schools.  These decisions should never be left up to a panel of scrooges who enjoyed the smells, sights, and sounds of this magical time of year in their "good 'ol days." Many of our students do not have the resources and/or devoted parents to make gingerbread cookies, sprinkle some glitter on Christmas ornaments, watch a Christmas movie or read a Christmas book.  Should they not experience these privileges at school?  What fond memories do you relive about your childhood this time of year?  Is it what you scored on the end of year tests, what reading strategies you learned in the 2nd grade, or perhaps the 1st time you memorized your multiplication tables?  I'm sure it is safe to me to bet that it was probably none of these.  I remember singing the "Drummer Boy" and trying to roll my tongue just like my teacher...."ba rumbababummm."  I remember standing on the stage with my friends as we depicted the nativity in front of the flashing cameras of many supportive parents.  I have fond memories of making ornaments of oranges, cloves, and cinnamon.  To this day, when I smell cloves, it takes me back to the innocence of childhood and the joy of Christmas.  Ahhhh, I'm so thankful for those memories.  

I am not going to be responsible for taking Christmas out of the schools and the hearts of our children.  Will you?