American childcare staff and teachers must become more sensitive to the diverse cultures of the children they teach. This begins from the very beginning where children’s early education provides the foundation for education. Even here, an unbiased curriculum supports linguistic and cultural differences. Embracing and affirming a student’s diversity helps avoid cultural gaps that exist between children/parents and their educators. By creating a more inclusive learning environment, teachers expand their responsibility to optimize learning for every student. Because family and cultural differences can greatly influence the learning environment, teachers must take steps to contribute to academic success with consideration for those cultural differences.
Overcoming Cultural Gaps
Cultural gaps between parents and educators can affect academic outcomes. To help overcome these challenges teachers can address a number of key cultural pain points:
There are many disparities in education including:
- Achievement: Teachers are 54 percent less likely to recommend black students for gifted-education programs than white students, unless the teachers were not white.
- Funding: According to one report, white school districts received $23 billion more in state and local funding in 2016 than predominantly nonwhite school districts. This is despite the schools having the same number of students.
- Readiness: Many teachers avoid being overly critical of black students in fear they might appear racist. However, this greatly interferes with a child’s readiness to pursue their academic goals.
Assessing students on achievements without bias can overcome such disparities. As well, government at all levels must reassess funding to ensure equal disbursement of funding across all publicly funded institutions.
Holidays and Religious Traditions
There is one thing all families have in common: They share holiday and religious traditions in their own way. Because of this commonality, educators and childcare staff can look for ways to celebrate the aspect of tradition instead of focusing on one particular holiday or religion. For example, during the holiday season, look for teaching opportunities with some clear learning objectives. Since peace, joy, community, and giving are common elements to religious beliefs, how can you introduce an understanding of the importance of these shared beliefs?
Can you reach out to the community collectively with a food drive? Can students visit local nursing homes to offer holiday cheer? Can you assign a project for children to create a holiday greeting card to reflect their own religion and traditions? By doing so you teach students to respect themselves, while also showing classmates they must respect and accept the traditions of others. This encourages important educational opportunities such as cooperative learning and student-centered instruction where students share experiences to learn from each other. Projects that allow students to explore the relevance of their own culture provides a learning experience for students to learn about each other’s cultures.
Racial and/or Ethnic Stereotypes
Society unfortunately still projects racial and ethnic stereotypes that influence both teachers and students. This threatens to undermine teaching objectives focused on removing these stereotypes. However, efforts to remove them from the classroom help teachers and childcare staff avoid even hints of stereotypical dialogue-based not only on race and religions, but also on gender, learning difference, and sexual orientation. Teachers can use several strategies to overcome stereotypes in the classroom:
- Acknowledge Your Biases: All of us have both known and unknown biases due to our upbringing and culture. First look at your own biases and strive to remove them when you enter the classroom. It’s better to be hyper-sensitive to potential biases than downplay them.
- Create a Diverse, Inclusive Environment: Children and parents are sensitive to the learning environment. All classroom decorations and messaging must remain culturally diverse to avoid subliminal preferences that could be offensive or present stereotypes of any kind. Asking students to contribute to these classroom elements helps keep diversity a priority while being respectful and accurate in cultural depictions.
- Offer Diverse Readings and Lessons: Typical stories and curriculums can lack diversity. Try to include diverse experiences looking at other cultural heroes of note to improve pride and confidence in cultural achievements. Offering many perspectives allows students to understand diversity and that achievements are possible for all cultures. It also teaches empathy and tolerance.
Welcome Different Perspectives: Encourage discussions where students can share their individual views. Support hearing from others and show students it is safe to voice opinions that differ from the majority in the room.
Culturally Responsive Education In Child Care
Embracing culturally responsive education goes beyond simply addressing cultural aspects of the learning environment. Diversity exists in modes of learning and the way each student responds to different teaching methods. Educators and childcare staff must use a mixed learning approach to appeal to all modes of learning including:
Introducing new modes of learning ensures all student learning styles have equal opportunity to succeed such as:
- Auditory and musical learners
- Visual and spatial learners
- Verbal learners
- Logical and mathematical learners
- Physical or kinesthetic learners
- Social and interpersonal learners
- Solitary and intrapersonal learners
The Role Of Group Collaboration
There are many benefits to collaborative learning including:
- Higher thinking levels
- Improvements in oral communication, self-management, and leadership
- Increase in student/educator interaction
- Improved retention
- Student self-esteem
- Increased sense of responsibility
- Exposure to diverse perspectives
- Increased empathy and tolerance for diversity
- Preparedness for realistic social and employment interactions
The Function Of Non-Verbal Behavior
One study found the use of verbal and non-verbal communication in education was more effective in assisting students in their academic progress. It is equally important for teachers and childcare staff to pay attention to a student’s non-verbal behavior to better assess their comfort level in certain situations as well as their apparent understanding of lessons. Teachers can use body language and voice levels to signal class is about to start, behavior is unacceptable or to accentuate certain points. Imagery also provides more impact on student learning, and diversity is important when showing images of people in instructional posters.
How Can Child Care Educators Promote Cultural Infusion?
To promote cultural infusion childcare staff should:
- Be aware of the learning characteristics of the child
- Learn to embrace children’s cultural characteristics
- Become flexible to alter teaching practices in the learning environment
- Develop group-oriented learning environments
- Celebrate diversity
- Use uniform standards but avoid standardization
Diversity is found in the classroom not only in the students and their families but in the childcare staff and educators as well. Acknowledging cultural influences on teaching and learning helps prevent problems that impact academic success. When educators recognize cultural and family influence learning challenges, they can introduce inclusive best practices that leverage diversity to create a more tolerant society.
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Header image courtesy of Jumpstory.