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Current Issue Table of Contents | Back Issues

Volume 1 Number 10

Harry and Rosemary Wong are widely regarded as the most reknowned voices in teacher effectiveness. In this month's cover story, the Wongs explore the most integral factors in teacher effectiveness.
Effective Teaching by Harry Wong
Promoting Learning by Marv Marshall
Alfie Kohn Article
Jan Fisher Column
4 Blocks by Cheryl Sigmon
School Psychologist by Beth Bruno
The Child in the Back
Integrative Curriculum in a Standards-Based World
Math Principles and Standards
What's With This E-Book Stuff?
Laughing All the Way
4 Blocks Framework Inspires
4 Blocks So. Cal. Gathering
Fundraising Award
Web News & Events
Letters to the Editor
Archives: End of Homework
New in the Lesson Bank
Upcoming Ed Conferences
Humor from the Classroom
Help Wanted - Teaching Jobs
Gazette Back Issues
Gazette Home Delivery:

About Beth Bruno...
Beth is a freelance writer and editor with more than 20 years of experience in mental health and education. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley, with a B.A. in Psychology in 1966. She continued her education at Harvard University (Ed.M. in Educaton, 1967) and Yeshiva University (M.A. in Clinical Psychology, 1976). Beth has served as Chair of the Psychology Department for the Special Children's Center in Ithaca, New York, and has worked as Adjunct Instructor at Tompkins-Cortland Community College.

Beth Bruno has always been "fascinated by people--their motives, emotions, what makes them tick." Her ability to "read people and connect with them" is a true gift. As a school psychologist, her philosophy is not to solve problems for people, but rather "to help people discover their inner resources and create ways to help themselves." "Some people fear the unknown," she says. "I welcome it, because I can usually make the best of whatever happens." Beth encourages questions from young people, adults, educators and professionals. She will do her best to answer each question personally and in a timely manner. She can be reached via email at

Click here for more articles by Beth Bruno.

Ask a School Psychologist
by Beth Bruno, Ed.M., M.A.

Do Christmas Songs and Decorations Belong in Schools?

QUESTION: We are a Jewish family living in a predominantly Christian community. There are other religions represented in the community, too, yet the public schools only seem to recognize one. During the weeks preceding Christmas and Easter, the halls and office glitter with Christmas or Easter decorations. Music selections, art activities and even academic lessons revolve around these Christian holidays, as well, to the exclusion of other religious traditions. Isn't there supposed to be separation of church and state? Why aren't teachers required to avoid religious content in the curriculum, unless they decide to teach something about all of the major religions as a history lesson?

ANSWER: You ask an excellent question. Parents who practice religions other than Christianity have told me that they keep their children home from school when they know there will be a party or gathering at school that celebrates a Christian holiday.

One elementary school principal with whom I worked completely agreed with parents who objected to the practice of shaping lessons around Christian traditions and forbid teachers to continue it. No one was allowed to place Christmas decorations on school grounds, inside or outside the building. The principal suggested hundreds of other topics for teachers to emphasize, such as seasons, environmental issues, economics, non-religious traditions or philosophies from countries around the world (encouraging parent participation in developing these lessons), and a host of others. Teachers complained but complied, and the curriculum was greatly enriched for their efforts.

QUESTION: I am a music teacher, kindergarten through high school, and enjoy showcasing student talent during two concerts every year, one just before Christmas and the other in late spring. Last year the superintendent asked me not to include Christian music or the audience sing-along of Christmas carols at the end of the concert, because he said it offended non-Christian parents. After the concert was over, several parents and students complained about the omission, saying that singing traditional carols was the best part of the concert every year and they really looked forward to it. Some of the most glorious choral music ever written has been played and sung in Christian churches for centuries. I can't win! How do I resolve this dilemma?

ANSWER: If you plan your programs carefully, you can introduce wonderful songs from around the world, each one celebrating a different religious or ethnic tradition. Many cultures produce contagious sing-along music, too, that your audiences will enjoy learning. Don't throw out audience participation just because your audience doesn't know the words to these songs! They will enjoy learning words from other languages and the simple stories, lessons or feelings that the songs convey.

The superintendent may allow you more program flexibility in the future if you embrace the "music" from his message by discussing program selections with him each year and explaining your reasons for making each choice. A selection from Handel's "Messiah," for example, may pass muster if you have chosen famous pieces from other ethnic and religious traditions for the rest of the program.

What are your thoughts about this subject, readers?

Web Links:
World religions index
Separation of church and state

Beth Bruno
Welcome to Insights, the Luckiest Spot on the Internet

Click here for more articles by Beth Bruno.