Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Fitting In

I so vividly remember an experience in first grade, it was sometime in the winter, and it was grandparents day. I was so sad because I didn't have grandparents in town, so I was going to be the only kid in my class without someone visiting me. Lo and behold, my neighbor, Alma, surprised me by filling in as my surrogate grandparent. I was thrilled. I wish I could get my hands on the picture of the two of us that day.

Another vivid memory was in Kindergarten, when my school set up a Santa's workshop store and we got to go buy gifts for our family members. Having spent my preschool years in a Jewish school, I was more than a little miffed that they only had Christmas stuff, which made it very hard for five-year-old me to shop for my family.

Fast forward to present day, three days ago. Walking into school on Monday morning I was greeted by a giant menorah (made by our students) and large inflatable Hanukkah bear. I smiled, and was surprised by the tears that tickled my eyes. The same thing happened last year. And I finally realized what it was.

I work in a Jewish Day School. After spending my whole educational career (really, my whole life) being a minority in schools that are "neutral" yet Christmas is covertly-obviously the center focus, I am surrounded by Jewishness. The school is decorated for Chanukah, everyone gives and receives Chanukkah gifts, kids and teachers alike dress in Hanukah garb... all of it.

And I fit in.

I'm not the minority. And it feels so good to belong.

For us educators, this speaks to the importance of building relationships with our kids. Maybe we are more precise with our language to be inclusive of all celebrations. Maybe we are more thoughtful with our classroom decor this time of year (and all year, really.)

Now, I know there are hundreds of thousands of others that feel how I did, and feel how I do. My hope this holiday season is that everyone has the chance to experience what it is like to fit in, to be in the majority, in a place where they spend a majority of their time.

Warm holiday wishes to everyone who celebrates a special time this time of year!

P.S. Yes, Chanukkah has a zillion different spellings. This post used several options!

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