I AM A PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER AND ONE OF MY STUDENTS IS A JEHOVAH’S WITNESS. —How can I help my Jehovah’s Witness student feel welcome?
“I am a public school teacher and I have a young lady in my class whose father just informed me that they are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Please tell me what types of activities my Jehovah’s Witness student might not be allowed to participate in. As a geography teacher, I show many videos based upon subject matter describing different cultures. I don’t want to offend.”
We appreciate your desire to be sensitive to the conscience of this Jehovah’s Witness student in your class. Activities that Jehovah’s Witnesses are prohibited from participating in are as follows:
- All Holiday and Birthday Celebrations
- All Patriotic Activities, Including Singing the National Anthem and Saluting the Flag
- After-School Activities that Conflict with Evening Commitments at the Kingdom Hall
- In-depth Socialization with Non-Jehovah’s Witness Classmates
Since public school children who are raised as Jehovah’s Witnesses often grow up facing constant ridicule from their classmates who scorn their beliefs and practices because they are “different” from the rest of the class, you as their teacher can make a positive impact on their emotional health by going the extra mile to make them feel welcomed and accepted.
One of the ways you can do this is by communicating with the parents of your Jehovah’s Witness student on creative alternatives that your student can engage in while the rest of the class is participating in an activity that is not approved by this student’s religion. For example, if your class is celebrating a birthday, some Witness parents allow their child to have a piece of the birthday cake as long as their child does not participate in singing the birthday song or observe the blowing out of the candles. Other teachers assign the Jehovah’s Witness an alternative project when the rest of the students are participating in a holiday project. These are some of the many creative ways that you can help the Jehovah’s Witness child feel part of your class without violating the Jehovah’s Witness’ religious conscience.
Although Jehovah’s Witnesses are not allowed to participate in patriotic activities or holiday celebrations, you may be permitted to show a film that depicts the activities and traditions of another culture (even if some of these videos depict their holiday celebrations) provided that time spent viewing of these questionable activities is brief and you do not ask the Jehovah’s Witness student to participate in the activities displayed. However, if the film is questionable, it is always best to obtain the parent’s approval prior to showing the film.
For a quick list of Jehovah’s Witness beliefs and practices that may be helpful for you to keep in mind when you interact with your student, you may want to read this article on our website and watch this you-tube video from a Christian teacher to his graduated Jehovah’s Witness students:
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