As I was looking at the different holidays that are coming up, I realized that Cinco de Mayo was this weekend. In some classrooms, this holiday is celebrated and then in others; it’s not so widely looked at. This topic started to make me think about a conversation that I had with some professors a few weeks ago about celebrating holidays in the early childhood classroom. I was thrown off by the conversation as they explicitly devalued the celebration of any holiday in the school due to the untruth of a lot of holidays and commercialization of what they have become within our culture.
I was distraught by the conversation and explained what we did within our classrooms because we are quite diverse with several cultures represented in the classes that we have. I want to make sure that our classrooms value all children that we serve and that we learn about everyone’s deep culture and heritage as it is integral to the growth and understanding of our children. How are we expected to tell our children that they have to be accepting of others if they don’t understand why everyone is not the same?
Now, I understand that some parents do not want their children to celebrate other cultures but, if we don’t explain the differences, then we are doing an injustice to our children, incubating the hatred within them of different cultures due to not understanding them. I am not insinuating that you should drill in a child’s head that you should celebrate every holiday that comes around but recognize the differences of the cultures and holidays that are observed within them. This is what makes everyone unique, and that’s ok.
There are many ways of doing this in a respectful way and policies and procedures that can be put in place to make everyone feel welcomed. It’s about accepting all students and families and allowing them to feel that way in everything that you do.
This is an excellent time for some tips on how to be culturally responsive to all children in your classroom and celebrate the world around you and the cultures that are represented within your center.
1. Policies – You need to be quite apparent with all families that you are accepting of all and that you will celebrate holidays and that you will celebrate all holidays that are represented in your center so that you can equally distribute the wealth of diversity and culture that is represented.
2. Families – A great way to make sure that you represent all cultures is to do a questionnaire at the beginning of every school year or when a child enrolls so that you are familiar with their beliefs.
3. Experts about Each Holiday – Utilizing your families as experts of different holidays and how they celebrate each one. Have them come in and talk about how they celebrate each one in their home. This can even be done with multiple families that celebrate the same holiday. Not each person celebrates Christmas the same way, and we need to show that so children understand that it is ok to be different.
4. Do activities in the classroom to help children understand them. A great way to have everyone share is to have families make a storyboard about what they do for a particular holiday and what makes it unique for their family.
5. Cultures around the world – This can be a great activity to do. We had the local exchange students come in and talk with the children about where they come from and what things that they like to do from their home that we don’t do here and the children loved it. They loved to see what types of structures they lived in or the environment that they come from. What they would wear and what they liked to do for fun compared to here. What made them unique. Then we held a family night about all the different things that the children learned about that one country and culture. They made specific foods, and games, and made pictures about what they learned along with particular types of art and activities that they would like to do if they went there. This was a great way to help families see the difference in others in a positive way. We included everyone, and it was amazing to see the parents faces when their children could tell them about the different cultures and why they celebrated things in a different way or why they celebrated this or just the differences that they learned about the other countries.
6. Stand up for what is right – make sure that you do not allow any parent to tell you that this work is not essential. You can let them know that this is apart of this schools culture and that you are accepting of all children and you want to instill that in every child that comes to your center. You will be amazed at what you will learn when you are accepting of all and the joy that all children get when they understand others.
7. Center Culture is Family Culture – Your center culture is the culture of your families so making sure that everyone is accepted and celebrated is imperative. Have fun with it and see what you can learn about the world around you as it will make you more knowledgable with a whole new view.