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Knowing Your Students’ Religions And How Holidays Can Affect Planning Christie Wiemers 11/2/2006
Introduction Students come from various backgrounds and cultures as we all know. Often we think about their culture but not their religious backgrounds. As educators we should be aware of our students’ religions and what holidays they celebrate in order to schedule tests and assignments appropriately.
Overview This presentation will discuss religious practices that may interfere with the regular school day and holidays that are not recognized as national holidays. I provide lists of some major holidays, but others not listed may also result in absence from class. Due to the diversity of religious practices, I will discuss the top five most common religions in the United States but it is important to be aware of others you will encounter. I will also list resources for further research and statistics as well as guidelines that affect classroom practices. Although we cannot plan around every student, we must try to make education as accessible as possible.
What Do Holidays Have to Do with Education? • A few federal holidays are related to major Christian holydays (Good Friday, Easter and Christmas) • For those students who are not Christian, there are holidays that they may need to miss school or class to celebrate, interfering with their assignments and studies • Educators should try to plan tests, projects and other big assignments in order to give students the time they need to prepare for and complete them
The Five Most Common Religions in the USA (“Christianity” includes many denominations and variations, including Catholicism and Mormonism, for which some research provides separate statistics.) Statistics from: Adherents.com Although Christianity has a large majority in the United States, it is important to know the religious statistics of your school and district
Christianity • Major Christian holidays typically coincide with Federal holidays. • Although these are planned for in school calendars, teachers should recognize that it can be difficult for a student to study during the breaks from school. Scheduling a test shortly after Easter or winter break can be a bad idea. • Other Christian holidays can interfere with curriculum depending on the denomination of the student, such as the Catholic observance of Ash Wednesday
Judaism • Jewish days are observed from sundown to sundown. Therefore, a Jewish student begins winter holidays earlier in the day than summer holidays. This can interfere with many aspects of assignments and test or project preparation. • Some major Jewish holidays are: • Rosh Hashanah • Yom Kippur • Hanukkah (or Chanukah) • Sukkot • Purim • Passover • Depending on the denomination of the student(s) these and other holidays require one or more days of observance, including praying at a synagogue. This may require missing class or school and praying at the synagogue all afternoon, evening and the following morning allowing the student zero time to study or prepare for class. • Also, Jewish observance follows the Jewish calendar so holidays are not on the same (secular/Gregorian) day every year.
Islam • Islam is the second largest religion in the world. It may be third in the United States, but it is growing very quickly. • As with Judaism, Islam observes a lunar calendar, not the secular or Gregorian calendar, therefore days begin at sundown and end at sundown the next day. Always keep in mind not only what day a holiday is celebrated, but what time it is celebrated. • Islamic holidays that students may be absent for are: • Day of Ascension • Ramadan • Id alFitr • Id-alAdha • Muharram • Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad
Buddhism • Buddhism has variations as do the other religions discussed. • Some Buddhists follow a lunar calendar and some do not. Knowing which denominations your students belong to can help you know when they celebrate the holidays. • Major holidays that may require students to miss class are: • Buddhist New Year • Vesak or Visakah Puja • Uposatha • Bodhi Day
Hinduism • Hinduism contains many variations. This may influence how students worship and which festivals they celebrate. Also, some holidays are celebrated at night and some during the day. • Dates are based on different regional calendars (such as the Indian Calendar), not just lunar or solar. • Festivals that may interfere with school are: • Dussera • Diwali • Ganesh Chaturthi • Souramana Yugadi • Holi • Deepavali • Makara Sankranti
Adherents.com: National & World Religion Statistics – Church Statistics - World Religions • http://www.adherents.com/ • This site provides statistics from various research that can aid you in finding information about your students’ religions. • It contains some information on national religious concentrations as well as regional. • There is also an alphabetical listing with statistics of religions, including denominations.
The CIA World Factbook • https://cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/ • The CIA World Factbook provides profiles of countries that can be helpful when researching religions as well as cultural backgrounds of your students.
Interfaith Calendar • http://www.interfaithcalendar.org/index.htm • This site offers calendars that show the dates of many religious holidays. It also has links to external sites providing information about many religions. • It contains definitions of all of the holidays alphabetically. • Having access to an interfaith calendar can make scheduling tests and projects easier.
University of Kansas Medical Center:Ethnic and Religious Cultural Holidays, Celebrations, and Festivals • http://www3.kumc.edu/diversity/ethnic_relig/ethnic.html • This is another religious holiday calendar that provides information helpful to planning tests and projects. • It is different than the Interfaith Calendar in that is has links to descriptions of the most common religious holidays within the calendar. • It contains only the year 2006 at this time.
Wikipedia • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holiday • Wikipedia is a great source for information on various subjects and it provides links to other websites as well. • The Holiday page has lists of public and religious holidays, definitions and other resources.
A Teacher’s Guide to Religion in Public Schools • This guide discusses how religion can be addressed in public schools under the rights of the constitution. Teachers should be aware of the guidelines in order to protect the rights of their students. • This can help when trying to decide how to address religious topics in the classroom.
Minority Religious Practices: The Need for Awareness and Knowledge • This is a research article that discusses whether teachers are aware of different religious practices. • “This study was conducted to investigate whether educators have knowledge regarding various religious groups. Results indicated that few educators possess knowledge of (a) which holidays are religious in nature and would necessitate that children be absent from school, (b) religious prohibitions and restrictions, and (c) the names of prophets and founders of various religions. Although significant differences in knowledge were found between educators who had completed a course in religion and those who had not completed such a course, completion of a multicultural education course did not produce significant differences. Recommendations for acquisition of knowledge, techniques, and strategies are also included.” • The study shows the need for teachers to know more about their students’ religions.
Conclusion Religion can be a big part of students’ lives and educators should recognize how religious practices and holidays can interfere with learning. By becoming aware of what religious observances can affect students’ studies, we can make school and education more accommodating. Along with understanding how religious holidays can affect scheduling, educators should also research attitudes associated with different religions so they can better understand students’ behaviors.
References • The CIA World Factbook. Retrieved October 2006. Website: https://cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/ • Haynes, Charles C. (1999). A Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools. Nashville: First Amendment Center. • Ribak-Rosenthal, N. & Kane, C. M. (Jan. 1999). Minority Religious Practices: The Need for Awareness and Knowledge. Counseling and Values, 43(2),142- 152. Retrieved October 2006, from ERIC database. • Top Twenty Religions in the United States, 2001. Retrieved October 2006, from Adherents.com National & World Religion Statistics – Church Statistics - World Religions. Website: http://www.adherents.com/rel_USA.html#religions
References Continued • University of Kansas Medical Center: Ethnic and Religious Cultural Holidays, Celebrations, and Festivals. Retrieved October 2006, from University of Kansas Medical Center. Website: http://www3.kumc.edu/diversity/ethnic_relig/ethnic.html • The World Factbook. Retrieved October 2006. Website: http://www.interfaithcalendar.org/index.htm • Wikipedia: Holiday. Retrieved October 2006, from Wikipedia. Website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holiday