Every Easter I am torn between excitement (about eating chocolate until I feel sick) and confusion (about the appropriateness of teaching Easter as a theme in my classroom). I use the word ‘theme’ to describe how I consider tackling the topic of Easter as the religious aspect of the festivity is something that I definitely choose to avoid. This is not because of my personal opinions about religion, but my belief that I should not impose religious beliefs on others. Given I have only worked in secular schools this has not presented a challenge for me.
On the one hand, Easter can present a fun way to engage students in learning, but on the other, choosing to celebrate Easter in the classroom could just be about me indulging my childhood or inadvertently putting parents in a difficult position.
One of the reasons why I love celebrating Easter with my students is that Easter leaves me with a fuzzy feeling. This is because I have fond memories of leaving carrots on my doorstep for the Easter Bunny, going on Easter Egg Hunts with my big sister and convincing my parents (and myself) that I’d seen the Easter Bunny hopping past my bedroom window. As I have such pleasant memories of Easter, I like the idea of sharing these with my students.
Easter is also important to the majority of the students that I teach and is widely celebrated in Australia. You can find Easter Eggs in our supermarkets the day after Christmas. As such, would I be simply disappointing most of my students if I didn’t celebrate Easter with them?
Another reason why I enjoy using Easter as a theme in my classroom is that I LOVE chocolate. And most people I meet do too! I mean, I don’t think I’ve met a kid who has refused to engage with a celebration that revolves around chocolate. Mmm, chocolate. Enough said.
I’ve made it pretty clear that I am a fan of chocolate and bunnies but I understand that this is due to my personal experiences with Easter.
This leads me to a concern that I have about teaching Easter as a theme in my classroom. If I’d been brought up in a family that didn’t celebrate Easter would I still encourage my students to celebrate Easter? In other words, by exposing my students to Easter, am I simply imposing my own beliefs and family traditions onto my students? And, am I unintentionally encouraging my students to engage and buy into a highly commercialised festivity?
I would hate to think that my students would TELL their families that the Easter Bunny IS coming to visit. This would force their families to choose between engaging with the celebration or disappointing their children by telling them the Easter Bunny is not coming.
I’ve tried to come up with a way in which I can celebrate Easter with my students whilst also being inclusive of those who don’t follow the tradition. I’ve thought about using the celebrations of each of the students in my class as a theme. For example, teaching my students about celebrations such as Chinese New Year and Eid. However, some of these celebrations are very difficult to focus on without discussing the religious element and as I mentioned earlier, I am keen to avoid discussing religion at all.
In the past I have used Easter as a theme for a short amount of time in my classroom. I have briefly discussed how it’s celebrated and given alternative options to any Easter activities I’ve given my students. For example, when making Easter baskets, I have given students an option between an Easter bunny basket and a “kangaroo” basket. I have also “worked” with the Easter Bunny to deliver Easter Eggs and chocolates (this is so that I can deliver chocolates to the non-celebrators and step outside of the Easter theme) to my students (see I have seen the Easter Bunny!).
For the time being, this has been the best approach I have come up with to navigate all the challenges I have identified. Still not sure that I’ve nailed it and keen to learn about others’ approaches!
Until next year…
Credit to Mallow World for the graphic.