How Stories Shape Our Lives – Part 2

I chose to go about things a little differently in this part of the assignment. Two of the readings specifically caught my interest so I wanted to elaborate on them first through writing but decided to use artwork to represent my written feelings as well.  The articles I will be focusing on are “Framing The Family Tree” by Sudie Hofmann and Dale Weiss’s “Unwrapping the Holidays”. These two hit home for me most because it made me realize how unaware I am of those around me which, in all honesty, saddened me a lot.

I am particularly grateful for having both my parents together by my side to this day. By having straight parents I never had to face the extra stresses involved with having homosexual parents. Along with the status quo of how families should be brought up, I was raised to celebrate the ‘common’ or ‘normal’ holidays. Decorating, planning, gathering, you name it, I look forward to it all for any holiday during any season. Whether it be January for New Year’s Day, February for Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day in March, April having Easter, May it’s Mother’s Day, June is Father’s Day, July Canada Day, summer long weekends in August and September, Halloween in October, Remembrance Day in November, and of course, Christmas in December. These traditions are commonsense to me; I don’t think I could see my months without these significant celebrations. Well believe it or not, this will not always be the case for our students. Some may not be Christian and celebrate Easter; some may be strong Christians and only express Easter through Jesus’ resurrection and no bunny rabbits. Others may not have someone to spend Mother’s or Father’s Day with, and could significantly be secluded by the fuss about Christmas.

We can constantly discuss the different types of holidays in our society, but do we ever take into consideration those students raised by diverse ‘parents’ during these seasons? What about the boy whose mother passed away, or the sisters who have two dads? Have we planned our activities and letters around those students whose parental figures are grandma and grandpa, or auntie and uncle? Not all students are able to participate during a simple, specific holiday such as Christmas, but even more so on parental acknowledgement days. Inclusive language must be initiated through letters sent home, through activities and assignments; try ‘Dear parent or guardian’ or even ‘Guardian Appreciation Day’ so they can choose if it goes to mom, dad or grandma.

As a future educator, and speaking to all the future teachers out there, make these realizations of diversity quickly, preferably before entering the field. We need to be sensitive of these differences and accommodate all various traditions into our classroom instead of only sticking to the ones that we’re used to. In Weiss’s “Unwrapping the Holidays” for instance, the school only wanted to decorate for Christmas, the December holiday that they were used to. When Weiss suggested incorporating Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Winter Solstice, the experienced teachers shut down the idea, uncomfortable with this change. By doing such an action is not implying that Christmas is wrong and believers should change, he’s emphasizing the importance of incorporating and joining other traditions together to show equality.

Again in “Framing the Family Tree”, not all of our parents will be present, straight or still together. The chances of having gay, lesbian, single, or extended family members playing the role of parents is highly likely. Acceptance, appreciation and a sense of being welcome are essential gestures towards all diversities encountered in our classrooms and society; which until now, I was guilty of being unaware of. That being said, I don’t feel the need for parents to wish such holidays did not exist in our school. For example, removing Father’s Day would hinder the children with male parents to showing them their love and appreciation; we’re then back to step one of deciding which students should be left out. The desired answer here is none; we must strive for inclusion in every way possible.

~

To enhance my feelings written above, I chose to combine these diversities into one IMG_0218whole, accepting collection. In my picture you’ll see a Christmas tree, the one holiday most commonly celebrated in our society and the one most talked about in our schools. Within this tree are ornaments (symbols) representing the many other holidays that occur during this time of year, addressing the importance and existence of these around us. If we look even closer, inside these symbols are various representations of family structures; mom and dad, two dads, two moms, grandma and grandpa or just one parent. Each tradition (Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice) should be given the same amount of importance, even if there is one holiday that holds a slightly larger meaning around where we live (Christmas). Every parental structure should be welcome to participate and celebrate these various traditions together too! In closing, the bright shining star at the top of the tree will entitle my, ‘Miss. Stein’s’, future class; welcoming and encouraging such diversities.

 

(Side note: not saying families who celebrate Hanukkah only have gay parents or guardians, or that straight parents only occur if they celebrate Kwanzaa. Just showing diversity in two different ways.)
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One thought on “How Stories Shape Our Lives – Part 2

  1. Rich. The conversation between the written word and the visual work was helpful in engaging deeply with what it might mean to be truly inclusive, to actually open up our classrooms to the variety of students and families we will no doubt encounter. Your side note is also evidence of the layers/thoughtfulness you brought to the activity. For example, if the Christmas image also included a straight family, you might be subtly reinforcing certain norms, even in an attempt to be inclusive. Getting this as teachers is one thing. I am wondering about how to meaningful establish and sustain this kind of inclusiveness within your classroom environment. What will that look like?

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