Teachers in multicultural settings have special educational opportunities and responsibilities. Entrusted with answering questions, encouraging diversity, and teaching about the world, navigating a diverse classroom is both exciting and challenging. Develop the skills needed to encourage positive student self-identity, a culture of acceptance, openness for questions regarding diversity in the world around us, and enriching cultural dialogue.
Teachers in multicultural environments need to come to an understanding and acceptance of their own cultural and ethnic identity. In order to field the plethora of questions students are sure to ask, a teacher must understand her own racial identity, and have some idea of how she defines herself from a multicultural perspective. If a teacher is uncomfortable talking about her own identity as a multiracial woman of Irish and South African descent, it's hard to foster positive student self-identity and a culture of openness in the classroom.
Culture of Listening
Throw stereotypes and perceptions to the curb. Forget what you think you know about how others should define themselves. Instead, adapt an ear for listening and promote this culture in the classroom. Let students own their own identities, tell their own stories, and share about how they define themselves racially, culturally, and otherwise. The best way to teach students to learn about others is to adapt good active listening skills, where others feel invited to share their stories, and where they are assured of your interest when you engage them with open-ended questions.
Encourage Positive Difference
Engage students in age-appropriate activities that affirm the beauty of difference in the world around them. Preschool children enjoy talking about the beauty of the colors in a crayon box, or singing songs from around the world. School age children delight in sampling food from varying cultures, and designing collages featuring world diversity. Older children and adults benefit from sharing their own cultural stories and engaging diverse populations in the community through service and community events. Talk about how beautiful diversity is, delight in what others have to offer, and communicate your positive thoughts so that your students learn to do the same.
Several cultures have contributed to every academic field under the sun. Make sure your students know this by planning a curriculum that includes information about the diverse people who have contributed to your subject matter. Include studies of the Egyptians and Greek people into your math curriculum. Encourage your literature students to read Haffiz and Kineko Mitsuharu. Physical education students learn about Olympic athletes from around the world as they participate in a variety of sports. Science students write reports about inventors, chemists, and biologists from a wide variety of cultures. Plan your curriculum so that your students naturally learn about the cultures in the world around them and engage in critical self-exploration and growth.
Anne Kinsey is a writer, business woman, minister and coach who is passionate about inspiring others to walk out their career dreams and believe in possibilities. She resides in rural North Carolina with her husband and three children, where they enjoy the great outdoors and serve at-risk youth together.