Teacher Education, Schooling and the Teaching of Holidays

Today is Canadian Thanksgiving. For many Thanksgiving is a holiday of rest. A long weekend for a quick getaway or time to gather with friends and family to feast on turkey and pause for a moment to reflect on one’s blessings. For many, it is a happy holiday, not associated with historical ties or religion.  For others, Thanksgiving holds alternative feelings and reminders.  As a teacher educator I do not mention the holidays in my class nor do we discuss possibilities for addressing the holidays in the classroom. Now I am thinking maybe I should… not for the purpose of generating teaching ideas and strategies but for the broader more philosophical discussion of what should be considered when raising the topic of holidays in the classroom?

I remember Thanksgiving celebrations at school; we decorated autumn wreaths, coloured turkey pictures and shared what we were thankful for with one another. But, is that what Thanksgiving is about? To some, it may be just that. But is it something else? What are the perspectives? The history? And how do we share that information in ways that are inclusive and safe? In fact, how do we share any holiday content with children in our classrooms? I am interested in unraveling the embedded practices that are based more on tradition (doing what we’ve always done) and thinking more about the students in our classrooms and how the stories and histories and significances of the holidays may or may not touch their lives.

Quick searches online led me to inconsistent explanations of the origins of Thanksgiving in Canada. So I am left to share a simple wikipedia here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving

There are significant differences between Canadian and USA Thanksgiving, far beyond the different date.

And then of course there is the perspective taking on the holidays. Thanksgiving is one where Aboriginal perspectives, for example, weigh heavily in my thoughts and move me to contemplate how best to approach the discussion of the holiday in schools.

There are several online resources available and people to talk to about the varying perspectives. Information can be found. Yet I am still left with the questions, how do we approach this in the classroom? Do we continue to colour in turkeys and refer to a ‘harvest’ that many 4 – 10 year olds cannot quite imagine and have children share what they are thankful for? Do we tell stories and share multiple perspectives on the past and present? Do we do nothing at all?

I’m interested to hear from teacher educators and teachers about what you are doing or have see done in teacher education and in schools.  An interesting discussion with many angles and points of view.

Sending warm wishes to those who have celebrated and enjoyed the holiday this weekend.

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