Yesterday, my son’s Room Mom sent out an email about a class party this Friday. The kids just finished reading The Garden of Abdul Gasazi by Chris Van Allsburg, the same author of the Christmas book The Polar Express. The kids are going to read The Polar Express on Thursday and then get to watch the movie on Friday for their class party.
Of course, my son was super excited to get to watch a movie during school. It’s not my favorite idea for a class party, but let’s face it… kids need a break sometimes. As a former Room Mom, I know that class parties are a pain in the arse to plan and execute. At a school where the majority of class parties are huge affairs with craft stations and gourmet food, I appreciate the simplicity of hot chocolate, popcorn, and a movie. With Christmas just days away, I’d take the easy way out too.
My son was telling his good news to our neighbor, a fifth grader at our school. She said it sounded “cool,” but didn’t seem at all excited. Combined with the fact that his teacher gave the kids a free pass on homework for the week, I think she thought the Third Grade was starting to slack. That’s when it hit me.
Our neighbor is Jewish. The Polar Express is specifically about Christmas.
Once again our school fails to be inclusive with the holidays. First the class did a creative writing project about the receiving the perfect present… on Christmas. Now they are reading a Christmas book and watching a Christmas movie. At a school with a diverse population (we host a Multi-cultural Fair in the Spring with over 40 countries represented), I can’t believe that we forgot about making sure that holiday parties are diverse too.
I still remember learning about Hanukkah in Girl Scouts when one of our moms came in and talked about it. We lit a candle on the Menorah as a troop. My mom, the troop leader and avid Christian, could have kept that week’s troop meeting about Christmas. She could have skipped over Hanukkah… and excluded the one Jewish girl in our troop. Instead, she asked the mom to come in and speak. We played the Dreidel Game and then we made ornaments for a Christmas tree. It was inclusive of our troop and the members within it. And all these ((cough)) years later, the memory has stuck with me.
It doesn’t take much time or effort to be inclusive. It just takes the right frame of mind.