As today is Christmas Eve, I thought I'd do an entry focusing on religion in the classroom. Holidays tend to bring out the best, and worst, in people and students are no exception. Dealing with the holidays can be a minefield for a teacher. Why?
If you do too much with the holidays, you're bringing religion into classroom. You're flaunting the students' First Amendment right to Freedom of Religion! All of this could be over something as simple as teaching your Spanish class "Feliz Navidad". If you don't do too much, you hate Jesus and Jesus is the Reason for the Season, don't you know! How dare you hate Baby Jesus by wishing your students a "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." There really isn't a way to make everyone happy, so the best thing to do is just admit to yourself some people are going to be upset and move on.
Despite such obvious rules as "Don't pray in the classroom", dealing with religion, even when it's not holiday time, can be a nightmare. My students are fond of saying "You need to go to church more often" if someone is acting bad. I always have about five to ten of these students a year. A kid's cussing too much? More church! Cheating on a test. You need to get yourself in a church! Threatening to stab another student in the neck with a pencil? She clearly doesn't go to church enough. Trust me, if a kid is acting bad enough, no amount of church is going to fix anything.
Of course, whenever this comes up, I always counter with "Now, not everyone goes to church and that's okay." And then they start asking me about my religion. "Are you a Christian, Ms. B?" Whether I am or not is really none of your concern. This is a classroom and we have a lesson to complete and we're not going to get off topic. "So you're not a Christian?" If that's what you want to believe, fine, but I'm moving on with notes.
Whether I'm Christian or not is really not their business. I treat religion the same way I treat politics. I'm not telling you my party or who I vote for. Why? Kids are easy to influence. I don't want to put my beliefs, political or otherwise, on the table to influence a student to make their own decision. Even if they think I'm a wonderful person and want to know more about my beliefs, that time is not when the state is paying me to give them a secular education in the classroom. I tell them that if they still care enough about my belief system when they graduate, I will happily tell them. Until then, let's move on with our subordinate and independent clauses, shall we?