Today was the annual Thanksgiving feast at my school. I started this tradition several years ago, and now it's kind of the special ed "thing" to do. My kiddos attend the classroom parties for all of celebrated holidays in their regular classrooms. It's important for them to be a part of those classrooms as much as possible, but it means that we don't get to have that kind of celebration in our own classroom. Celebrating Thanksgiving (which is addressed in other classrooms, but there is no party for Thanksgiving) serves a twofold process.
First of all, having a Thanksgiving party is a chance for us to celebrate together as a class. Just as important, though, is the PR aspect of the party. I am very aware of the parental concerns of a special ed stigma. I will say that, at our school, this doesn't seem to be an issue in the lower grades...and I intend to keep it that way. My kids love being in my class, and the other kids wish they could be. (And they do love our class...several times today I heard different kids say, "I love this class!" or "This is a great class!"...does my heart good. :D) We invite the principal, assistant principal, and the therapists who work with our class to join us.
We made the pumpkin pies yesterday and then took them up to the cafeteria to cook there. I make the turkey at home, and then the ladies in our cafeteria are kind enough to heat it up for us. The families each send in a part of the meal, and we make everything else in our classroom. It's amazing what you can manage to cook with just a few crock pots and a hot plate! Of course, it's usually boxed stuffing and mashed potatoes and canned corn and beans, but the kids have SO much fun doing the cooking! I wish I could post pictures so you could see the huge smiles on their faces.
We pretty much make a day of it. Thanksgiving stories, comparing and contrasting that time period with now, Thanksgiving crafts, discussion of what it means to be thankful and what we are thankful for, cooking and eating the feast, watching a video about the Pilgrims, playing Thanksgiving Bingo, and decorating cookies. (Or, if you want to be educational about it...listening comprehension, history, historical analysis, application, fine motor activities, measurement, socialization, creativity and art, manners, and listening to multi-step descriptions).
I'm pretty much exhausted...I slept about 2 hours last night due to an oven malfunction when we were gone to volleyball throwing off my turkey time table, and I was literally on my feet constantly from 8:15 a.m. until 2:00 (well, I did sit down for about 5 minutes to eat...haha). By the end of the party, I was pretty annoyed with them because behavior was not super. Being out of routine is challenging for some of the kiddos, and all of the excitement makes it harder for them to maintain their behavior. Now that I'm writing about it, though, I absolutely remember why I do it. They had a wonderful time, and they felt "special" in the best possible way. :D