For supply teachers filling in to cover absences during the holiday season and any religious period requires careful navigation of the topic with pupils in their charge. In particular, they must be very aware that not all will share the same cultural and religious beliefs, which will impact how they view the Christmas holiday celebrations. In our latest blog, we take a look at the implications for supply teachers of discussing religious holidays in a new classroom and why they must adapt their lesson plans and language to cater for diverse classrooms and diverse schools.
Holidays in the classroom
It’s all too easy for so many of us to get wrapped up in our own religious frenzy of festivities and think that the Christmas period is the norm for everyone. We’re reminded months in advance as shops and retailers begin to ramp up their advertising and messaging to attract consumers. We accept it because it’s something that’s been part of our lives since we can remember. But we can all too easily forget that this isn’t the case for many other communities, who won’t be celebrating Christmas, so the big build-up of excitement and presents won’t have the same significance.
This is why it is so important that teaching methods and styles adapt to classrooms which will inevitably have children from different countries, ethnicities, religions and beliefs. If supply teachers don’t cater for this diversity, then they run the risk of alienating pupils who won’t feel included. This could well impact their state of mind and mental health. It’s a scenario that must be avoided at all costs, particularly during Christmas, by far the longest holiday period in our calendar.
The challenge for supply teachers is that there are so many different religions, customs and cultures that it can be hard to know what to do. A starting point for all supply teachers should be to check with their institution’s policy – schools, districts and organisations will typically have very different guidance. Some for example may decide to not have anything religious on display. A safe bet is to incorporate neutrality, using non-religious winter themes such as snowmen or snow.
Embracing religious and cultural differences
Being aware of other key religious events during December is also important. For example, there’s the Jewish festival of Hanukkah (18-26 December) and Kwanzaa (26 December-1 January), which is a celebration of African-American culture. There are others too, such as the Buddhist festival of Bodhu (8 December) or the Japanese New Year’s Eve tradition of Ōmisoka. Supply teachers working during the Christmas period must do their research so that they can acknowledge these important dates, which will mean so much to some of their students.
If allowed to have Christmas or any religious holiday-themed materials in the classroom, supply teachers must again take into account the needs of their students and ensure that images reflect different cultures. For example, as well as snow, you might also want to reflect warmer climates that perhaps wouldn’t see snow at this time of year. In terms of people images, you need to take care that these are representative of all races, so clearly not just having a white Father Christmas or white angels. Respect for other cultures and traditions during any time of the year is an absolute must.
One of the benefits of our solutions is that schools can build lasting relationships with supply teachers who they can then add to their preferred ‘bank’ of temporary staff and call on their services when they need to. The advantage is that the supply teacher will have got to know the pupils, staff, culture and environment of the school, which will mean that they are better able to navigate these holiday periods and account for these different cultures and religions.
Being culturally responsive is a key requirement for any supply teacher, especially during the holiday season. Lesson plans should be adapted so that every child feels included and not left out. Christmas might have a religious significance or be an important time for us and our families – but not everyone shares the same belief.
If you’d like to learn more about our solution and how we can help teaching staff, schools, academies or academy trusts, please contact us.