School & District Management

A Thanksgiving Reading List (With Extra Gravy)

By Evie Blad — November 21, 2022 4 min read
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Pumpkin and ... pedagogy.
Cranberry sauce and ... culturally responsive practices.
Turkey and ... teacher morale.
Mashed potatoes and ... making sure student attendance doesn’t lag during the holidays.

OK, OK. We will spare you more menu alliteration and get to the birdness, I mean business, at hand. Thanksgiving is sort of the informal kickoff to a season that is both tough and rewarding for teachers, principals, and district administrators.

On the one hand, the markers of holiday celebrations can buoy spirits during a challenging school year. On the other hand, a domino chain of sporadic days off between now and February promise to interrupt classroom momentum and further strain waning student attendance rates.

Good gravy, that’s a lot to manage! Not to be corny, but here is a cornucopia of stories from the Education Week archives you can gobble up to help make your holiday a piece of pie—or at least give you some new ideas to chew on.

Pass the rolls and hold the homework ...

“No matter what you are working on in school right now, there is no reason to ask students to stress about it during the first short extended break of the school year,” educator Starr Sackstein wrote in this opinion piece.

Sackstein said teachers shouldn’t assign homework on Thanksgiving weekend. Instead, suggest they talk to a family member with a different perspective and share what they learned, play with a pet, or help prepare the holiday meal.

Christina Torres, an 8th-grade English teacher, agrees.

“Taking the stress of homework out of my students’ holiday breaks is important. They deserve an opportunity to relax and rejuvenate as much as I do—particularly if they are overscheduled to begin with,” she wrote in 2019.

Serve the stuffing and support a new teacher ...

“For beginning teachers, making it to the end of the semester can bring a real sense of accomplishment. They feel free to write new plans and ready to reset routines for the second semester,” 2014 Texas Teacher of the Year Monica Washington wrote in this EdWeek essay. “For others, this time brings questions and deep reflection. Is teaching really what I thought it would be? Why do I feel so lost all the time? What else can I do with this science degree?”

In this opinion piece, Washington urged administrators to check in with new teachers around Thanksgiving to offer support, answer questions, and call out the things they are doing well.

Give thanks for a chance to reexamine history ...

There’s “less and less” use of construction paper headdresses and oversimplified stories of pilgrims in schools “as more people are made aware of that version being a myth, and our realization that there is a really different perspective that needs to be considered,” Jacob Tsotigh, citizen of the Kiowa tribe and the tribal education specialist for the National Indian Education Association told Education Week in 2019.

In this story and an accompanying PBS Newshour segment, Education Week explored the way classroom teachers have “unlearned” the widely told narrative of Thanksgiving to understand the Native American perspective.

Put down the football and practice pluralism ...

For educators “the convergence of so many holidays [following Thanksgiving] can create the December dilemma: how to acknowledge and respect the wide variety of holidays and traditions their students hold dear without implying that some are more important than others,” Kimberly Keiserman, an education program associate at the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding, wrote in a 2015 opinion essay.

Keiserman explored how educators can respect their students’ various cultural and religious traditions during the winter holiday season. One tip: Teach students to ask open-ended questions like, “What holidays are important to you?” instead of, “Why don’t you celebrate Christmas?”

Bonus! This article offers tips for teachers on selecting songs and readings for holiday performances.

Eat, eat, eat! And plan to engage students ...

“To reduce the levels of absences in our schools, we are going to have to have a very intentional, thoughtful, long-term strategy,” Hedy Chang, executive director of Attendance Works, recently told Education Week.

Chronic absenteeism spiked during the pandemic, and the winter months present a special challenge for school leaders working to build attendance habits. Holidays interrupt learning time, and a wave of respiratory illnesses have led to temporary school closures in schools around the country. In this article, Chang offers tips to keep students engaged.

Grow in gratitude and empathy ...

“As any teacher will tell you in one of these [high-poverty] schools—a growing number, thanks to the steady rise of the percentage of children living in dire conditions—the Monday after Thanksgiving is a particularly challenging (and important) day to be an educator,” education activist Sam Chaltain wrote in this opinion piece. “Whereas many of the children will be ready and eager to resume their school lives, some will return to classes having eaten little over the four-day break. And others will be numb from their extended stay in a world of chaos and dysfunction.”

Schools have to engage the realities of students’ lives to help them learn and succeed, Chaltain wrote.

Bonus! Learn how two Washington state district leaders built a community school strategy to help their community connect students and their families to needed supports like food pantries, employment services, and mental health care.

Nurture ‘thankitude’ ...

“The constant state of hurry, worry, and fury in which we live and teach, along with the countless distractions of everyday life, amounts to what author Brigid Schulte calls ‘the overwhelm.’ And adults aren’t the only ones who experience it; students feel overcome too,” author Gary Abud wrote.

In this opinion piece, Abud writes about classroom practices to nurture and share ‘thankitude.

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