As teachers, it has long been expected that we celebrate a whole lot of “days.” Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I have found, are two that can be challenging. For some students, Mother’s Day activities honor the mother in their life. But what if you have a stepmom, does she get a macaroni necklace too? What if your grandma is raising you? Does she get “grand” squished in with the pre-made craft? What if your mom died? Or if you have two dads? Now reverse all that and apply it to Father’s Day. See what I mean? Not so easy.
When I taught older grades this was less of an issue in terms of projects. Gone were the days of finger paints and popsicle stick frames. With older students, holidays that celebrate moms and dads often bring stress, anxiety, and a whole lot of other big feelings. I made sure to keep my eyes and ears and heart open to students who might struggle with these two holidays.
So what to do? I am not of the opinion that all holidays must be avoided lest we leave someone out. However, I do think that there are ways to be mindful of the diverse experiences our students live with every day. Typically, when we make Mother’s Day and Father’s Day crafts, I suggest these can be made for their mom or any person who takes care of them. “You mean, I can make one for Miss Davis?” “Yep!” is my reply. Teachers are often a strong parental figure in a student’s life, why not include a teacher as an option? And, just as you always do, keep a pulse on the students in your class. Be aware of what might be going on for them and be there to listen, have lunch with them, make sure they know you don’t just care about their reading scores, you also care about them.
I am sure there are many other ways to celebrate those who care for us. This year, maybe when you approach Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, take a minute to consider all your students.