Halloween: Discussions Around Inclusion

Every year I struggle with Halloween. While some educators are excited to dress up for the day and plan activities for their students, I’m at times hesitant to say that it’s just something that I’m not interested in. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all up for celebrating holidays with students but there’s something about the day – and it’s not just this one – that makes me wonder about how and what we choose to “celebrate”. 

This year, I was certainly appreciative of our administrator who brought up the conversation of inclusion, looking towards Halloween. In my class alone, 1/3 of the students don’t celebrate Halloween and this had me asking a few questions:

  1. What pressure do holidays like these have on students who don’t celebrate?
  2. Is the pressure then applied to parents so that students feel a need to “fit in” by purchasing costumes or treats for friends?
  3. Do students who don’t celebrate feel “othered” on days like this when they’re asked why they aren’t wearing a costume?
  4. With a number of allergies and dietary restrictions in my classroom, how do “treats” impact a student’s sense of inclusion? 
  5. How do I ensure that those who wish to celebrate are afforded the same respect as those who don’t wish to celebrate?

Today, the Globe and Mail reported on the ongoing discussions that are happening in our school community. Running through the article was the theme of inclusion. In an era where there is so much discussion around equity and inclusion, how do we handle or manage celebrations like these in schools? How do we make decisions where student voice and choice are celebrated?

In my class this year, students can dress up if they want and there has been no pressure for them to do so. Let’s face it, costumes are expensive. Growing up, I never wanted for anything but looking back, I know that things were challenging financially for my parents. I’m cognizant of the decisions parents have to sometimes make and the pressures of purchasing a costume, shouldn’t be an added burden to them. After several discussions in class, students agreed that they wanted to do something on the day but not necessarily a “Halloween” activity. As such, we’re participating in collaborative games in Physical Education and then participating in Art, Coding or STEM activities for part of the afternoon. 

I’m not sure that we’ve come up with the “right” solution for this year’s Halloween but at least the conversations have begun and I look forward to seeing how we make holidays like these even more inclusive for all. 

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Updated: October 30, 2019 — 8:28 pm

The Author

Arianna Lambert

I'm a grade 4/5 Teacher in the Toronto District School Board who loves integrating technology and mindfulness in the classroom. Through inquiry and design, I work with students who are engaged in meaningful learning opportunities; developing core competencies, while creating ways to make the world an even better place. I am the recipient of a TDSB Excellence Award for the co-creation of #tdsbEd, Twitter chats for educators. Through conversations on trends in Education from STEAM to Mindfulness, it has become an online community of educators dedicated to improving their practice to ensure greater student success, well-being and achievement.

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