Diversity In The Classroom

I was talking with a friend last week about the private school that her 2 boys attended & she informed me that she had withdrawn them at the end of last school year and they now attended public school. When I asked what brought about the change, she told me “The teachers at their previous school told them (when doing are projects) ‘We only color the people in our pictures peach.’ ” My friend, a forward thinking intelligent mom, told her children to follow the rules at school but while at home, she encouraged her children to do artwork and to color their people all different shades because as she put it “The world is full of people of all different colors.”

This got me to thinking. When we take our children to school, we assume that we are placing them in the very best care. We believe that the teachers that interact with them on a daily basis are teaching them about equality and being open-minded when in reality, that may not be the case. Teachers are human and bring with them into the classroom, their own set of prejudices. How so we know that they aren’t passing them on to our children?

A culturally literate teacher can make all the difference when working with children on the concepts of diversity & racial tolerance. An educator that celebrates differences helps to increase students’ self-esteem and self-worth and helps to teach children about these differences in a non-judgmental way. Unfortunately, there are some schools, administration and teachers who fall short of this mark.

What should we as parents be on the lookout for? How can we tell is our child’s teacher is ready to take on this open-minded way of teaching?

1. Look for signs in their classroom: Do they have pictures, quotes or artwork representing all cultures and populations?

2. Check out their teaching style: Do they encourage healthy, open discussions and questions about cultural perspectives and topics?

3. Examine the school curriculum: Do the lesson plans fit all types of students? Does it focus on one particular gender, race or religion more than another?

4. Ask the students: 45% of all children in the US are ethnic minorities. Do they feel excluded? Do they feel safe sharing things about themselves in the classroom?

5. Take a look at your child’s homework or text books: Are there units or chapters devoted to all ethnicities? Do they look at History or social issues from different cultural perspectives?

Most teachers are good people trying to do their jobs in the best way possible; dealing with school overcrowding, budget cuts and the like. If your child’s classroom does not answer with a resounding “yes!” to the above questions, you don’t have to make a rush to pull them from school. These are merely suggestions for the optimal learning for our children and if your child’s school or teacher can provide even just a few of the suggestions, they are better off for them.

We should of course, be teaching children morals and their belief system at home, but with teachers having a large influence over behavior for a good portion of their day, we do have some cause for concern if they are teaching things that we don’t want them to learn. The world is made up of students of all different colors, shapes, and sizes and we need to find educators that encourage communication about differences while demonstrating that these differences do not equate to any one group or person being better than any other. We should be concerned when our teachers tell our children to “only color people peach” and we should applaud those that inspire, motivate and empower children of all colors.