» A Culture that Engages Every Family, Steven M. Constantino, Ed.D.
» How Do You Know if You're Really Open to Partnership, Anne Henderson & Karen Mapp
» The Power of Asking-Instead of Telling, Jody McVittie, M.D.
» Empathy in Action, Rick Ackerly, Ed.M.
Thanksgiving is behind us and we are now officially in the "holiday" season. Throughout the month of December, there are celebrations everywhere – at the office, at home – and in the schools. However you celebrate at home or in the office, the notion of what is appropriate and inappropriate in public schools continues to evolve as our communities become more diverse.
When I was a child, Christmas was observed in the schools with Christmas pageants, Christmas concerts, Christmas parties, candy canes, and Christmas carols. Children who did not celebrate Christmas felt excluded. A generation later, Hanukkah was given a mention with a Hanukkah song in the concert and perhaps, a Hanukkah food, such as jelly doughnuts – better than nothing, but not much. More recently, Kwanzaa has been included in the “holiday” festivities. Whether it was called “holiday” or Christmas, everyone understood that it was basically a Christmas celebration with merely a nod to non-Christian holidays.
Nowadays, students observe so many different winter holidays in our multi-cultural society that schools simply can’t keep up with them all. Rather than being exclusionary, a number of schools have adopted an educational solution to this winter dilemma by having the students share their family traditions with their classmates. In this way, the school or teacher doesn’t put an imprimatur on any one practice. The children explain their customs and share their foods – and it becomes a learning experience.
Did I say “food?” Anyone who has ever worked in a school knows that you can easily gain seven pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas with all the ubiquitous goodies. But sharing food among children has become a real problem. Is the food gluten free, peanut free, animal free, kosher or halal? With medical conditions, such as celiac disease, food allergies, and dietary restrictions, it’s not as easy as it used to be to share holiday fare with your classmates. In the past, people just didn’t know any better; now we do!
Add to this the rampant concern about obesity and healthy eating in this country, and we have another dilemma on our hands. Parties bring together students, teachers, and parents, and provide a break from the routine. But school parties typically revolve around junk food, such as candy, cookies, cupcakes, and chips. As parents across the country lobby for school wellness policies and healthier fare in school cafeterias, the traditional holiday party becomes almost politically incorrect.
With these dilemmas, parents who care have to weigh in. You have to speak up if your child feels uncomfortable or is in danger of having his health or beliefs violated. School officials will listen to your concerns. In one district where I worked, parents rallied against a Christmas pageant in one school. It was replaced by a more ecumenical sharing of traditions.
Last year, one Rockland County, NY teacher went way too far by telling her students that there is no Santa Claus. Parents complained, and the teacher had to apologize. Clearly, this teacher had no business imposing her own views and impinging on children’s beliefs.
If your child has a food restriction, let the school know ahead of time. If it’s a matter of healthy eating, are you willing to make an exception for a special occasion – or do you think school parties shouldn’t revolve around junk food? A study in the Journal of Nutrition, Education, and Behavior, indicated that when fruit was served along with candy and cookies, children ate it, and their total consumption of calories dropped.
If you are a parent who cares passionately about what is served at class parties, form a committee and come up with healthier food alternatives. Additionally, plan fun activities that are not food-related. How about a community service project instead, around which, parents and students can unite?
Whatever your individual concerns or beliefs, our public schools are for everyone. Most important at this time and throughout the year is that parents -- in partnership with schools -- teach children how to respect and celebrate their differences.
Wishing you a happy holiday season and a healthy new year!
Photo Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.Net
Posted on November 28, 2012 by Meryl Ain, Ed.D.
Dr. Meryl Ain has worked in several large New York school districts as a central office administrator, teacher, and school building administrator. She writes about education and parenting for Huffington Post, several other publications, and on her blog. You can also follow her on Twitter.
Additional Information about our Bloggers
(www.ParentInvolvementMatters.org does not handle reprint requests. For permission to reprint articles, please contact the author directly.)
Tags: *School-Family Partnership
|*Parent Engagement at Home (76)|
|Learning environment (38)|
|Critical Thinking (13)|
|Study Skills (9)|
|Social Skills (8)|
|Character Development (28)|
|Bullying Prevention (10)|
|Positive Discipline (14)|
|Parents as teachers (41)|
|*School-Family Partnership (56)|
|Building trust & respect (35)|
|2-way communication (33)|
|Parents in classroom (5)|
|*Diverse Families (11)|
|Non college-bound (1)|
|Low-income/ At risk (5)|
|Special Needs/LD (3)|
|*Technology & Partnership (10)|
|EdTech Resources (2)|
|Social Media (23)|
|*Out-of-School Time (6)|
|*Educational Policy (12)|
|PTA - PTO (8)|
|Ed Reform (15)|
|Mom Congress (1)|
|It's the Holiday Season -- Dilemmas for Parents and Schools|
|This Week's #PTchat - Recognizing Students for In & Out of School Accomplishments|
|This Week's #PTChat: Partnerships: From Core Beliefs to Practice|
|Parent Engagement Work Yields Hundreds of Parent Graduates|
|This Week's #PTchat - Creating a Positive Learning Environment At Home & At School|