As educators, we will get a classroom filled with students with different cultures and beliefs. Multicultural education is any form of education / teaching that incorporates the histories, texts, values, beliefs, religion, race and perspectives of people from different cultural backgrounds. We will have classrooms filled with students from around the world, with a different outlook. Where ever this student came from, they have learned something there and picked up on different traditions.
Some of the students may speak a wide variety of languages, but English may not be one of them. Our goal as educators is that every student who sets foot into our classroom, will step out of the classroom with success. The first step to teaching a multicultural classroom, is to make each student feel safe and the desire to be there. By preventing prejudice and discrimination, the student will feel wanted and welcome. According to the National Association for Multicultural Education “multicultural education helps students develop positive self-image, offers students an equitable educational opportunity, allows multiple perspectives and ways of thinking, combats stereotypes and prejudicial behavior, and teaches students to critique society in the interest of social justice”. This will welcome every student of different cultures, to want to participate by creating the environment that will bring every child out of their shell.
Taking the time to know a student as an individual and not just a student can go a long way. This helps build trust, communication and a bond between the educator and the student. A student always knows when the educator cares about them and will go an extra step of the way to assure the educator is pleased with them. We only know the student as another member of the class at the beginning of the school year, but we have no idea as educators, what happens outside of the school doors. Sometimes school may give the student the only eight hours of safety, peace, food, comfort and company. The student may be coming from a household where they are exposed to abuse and isolation. In some cultures, men are male chauvinist and it is not viewed as inappropriate. Other cultures, women are not allowed to look men in the eyes or superiors, it is viewed as a sign of disrespect. In the Mexican- American culture, people are used to hugging, touching figures of authority. The way every person is different from one another, cultures also vary.
Teachers should always integrate multicultural education into their classroom and the school in general. I have known of schools who will want the students to accommodate to their curriculum, instead of slowly walking hand by hand with the student and slowly integrate them into the curriculum. Teachers should integrate a diverse reading list that includes different cultures. The educator should encourage other students to join and participate as they also learn new things.
“Discovering diversity takes creativity, extra effort, diligence, and courage on the teacher’s part” (Fish, 2015). Although every educator (or anyone involved in a child’s life), should take the extra step, not many do. It can be very challenging and new, but at the end it can be very rewarding. It may be new territory to many teachers, and that may be a reason why many avoid it. Avoiding the situation is depriving the student from their right to learning. The educator has to keep an open mind during the process and the student will meet them half way. Fish talks about how a teacher must be willing to take new risks and try a variety of new things even if they seem scary. These students that are coming to us are also taking that risk, and they may be afraid or intimidated by all the new information, the least we could do for them is help them.
Setting aside culture, teachers should know their students’ learning patterns. Educators should comprehend that different cultures respond different to information.
“Israeli children, for example, are taught to readily criticize an instructor who they feel is saying something that is incorrect while Vietnamese children will not say a word during class unless called upon to regurgitate memorized material (Jones 10). Students from Israel differ greatly from students from Vietnam, which may create a culture clash in the classroom. Vietnamese students will think the Israeli students are rude, brash, unnerving, and extremely obnoxious.” (Fish, 2015)
Educators should also educate the rest of the class and let them know that we all have different beliefs, but just because they believe a different thing means that they are wrong. The educator could even have the student introduce interesting facts about their culture, that they think the rest of the students in the class should know. This allows the student also to introduce themselves along with their culture if they would like too. This would be the student’s first step into confidence.
When it comes to teaching a multicultural classroom, teachers should always be welcoming of new ideas and allow the rest of the class to learn from them too. Having a classed filled with diversity only means the teacher must be creative and open minded!
Garcia, E. (n.d.). Multicultural Education in Your Classroom. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from http://www.teachhub.com/multicultural-education-your-classroom
Fish, L. (2015). Building Blocks: The First Steps of Creating a Multicultural Classroom. Retrieved February 16, 2017, from http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/papers/buildingblocks.html