Social and Cultural Foundations of American Education/Multiculturalism/Differences
One may realize very early in life that everyone is different. For most of us as little children, our very first day of school was scary. We saw children of different gender, color, and ethnicity just to name a few. This was just the beginning. Once we sat in class we realized that other children talked and even laughed differently than us. At a very young age we realize how different we all are. As we grow older we realize that these same differences that once scared us are the very same differences that help us coexist.
Respecting Students who are "Different"
In the world of education, the biggest difference arises through cultural or racial differences. “Problems can occur when teachers—most of whom are white and English speakers—expect minority and limited English-language students to act and learn in a way that does not mesh with their cultures”(www.edweek.org). A Caucasian teacher may have more difficulty relating to an Asian student then she would to another Caucasian student. For example, Susan Black writes in her article "Respecting Differences," "A third-grade teacher informed Mexican immigrants that their daughter was 'insecure and overly dependent.' The teacher didn't realize the parents taught their little girl to be quiet and obedient and to seek approval while working on her assignments." This is only one example of how ethnicity can be a barrier in the classroom if the teacher does not know how to keep an open-mind and respect his or her students' differences. These are serious issues because they block learning on most levels. If a teacher cannot relate to his or her students the children are less likely to take anything away from the lecture, especially if they feel the teacher is looking down on them or scolding them for things they cannot help or do not understand. When teachers step into the classroom they need to be prepared to deal with students who do not think, look, act, or speak like they do. They need to keep an open mind, and be willing to learn about their students and their differences. All students deserve to be treated with an equal amount of respect. If teachers understand their students and their differences, many barriers will be crossed and learning will be a lot more enjoyable and effective for everyone involved.
Respecting Teachers who are "Different"
The difference between a foreign teacher and students is, in my opinion, much greater. While, according to the article "Respecting Differences" teachers are "overwhelmingly white and English speaking," there are some classes that are taught by a foreign teacher. The same rules apply to teachers that are ethnically different that apply to students: Respect, understanding, and open-mindedness is key. When you have a teacher who does not understand a culture and a language you have a much greater degree of difficulty. For example, a foreign teacher trying to teach Civics would more than likely be a daunting task. It is almost impossible for a teacher who has never been in the country to teach a topic such as civics. As a society, we put ourselves in a difficult position by doing such things. I will say, however, that it is not the teachers fault, since they weren’t necessarily the ones who put themselves in that particular position. However, this is a difference that, though easy to respect, is not necessarily easy to overcome.
How Self Esteem Helps Children Respect Differences
Differences among the students can also take away from a student’s education. Most importantly, this process of helping students deal with each other starts from within. “When children respect themselves and others, they feel good about who they are. When children learn to value people who are different from themselves, they are better prepared to live peacefully in a diverse world.” Kids who have no self worth or esteem want no part in respecting differences. It is logical to think that children who are uncomfortable with themselves are very uncomfortable with being different. However, it is also noted that those obvious differences could be an escape or a way of connecting with others. When a child sees another who is a different race or a different ethnicity, he or she could see this as an opportunity, or a chance of making a connection with another student who, in his or her eyes, is different too. However, is it good for those children see this as a way out of their discomfort? In most peoples eyes' the answer is no.
Another major difference in education is special education. IEP’s and 504’s give some students special attention, which creates a distinct difference between students. These kids get special treatment and most of the time it is rightfully so. However, these kids are less likely to want to succeed when they have a teacher reading them a test in the classroom, or if they are wearing headphones to listen to a recorded test. What makes the situation even more frustrating is that sometimes it does not help the student. This could be because of the negativity the student may feel from the other kids, or it could be from lack of support at home. “When I ask parents how their child’s progress toward goals and objectives is being monitored and reported to them, most often the response is ‘I’m not sure’ or ‘I don’t know’”. This is sad because we are creating many differences among children, yet we are not utilizing the choice we are making.I believe that the 504 plans are very helpful, “The concept and practice of "inclusion" has resulted in new challenges for teachers, administration, and parents to provide effective educational experiences for students”. In doing my observation I found that one of the students was on the 504 plan and she was very embarrassed by it. I feel that we as teachers need to stress the fact that the students are as smart as everyone, they just need a little more assistance. The young girl felt as if she was not as smart as the rest of the class, but she was very intelligent. Not only is it useful to the students, but to the teacher as well because it makes it easier to teach that student knowing that particular child need more attention. If they did not have this plan, then the teacher would be holding up the rest of the class trying to make sure that that one student gets the material, but with the 504 plan it is already established when they go into that classroom.
Differences throughout the world are prevalent, but none more so than in education. Whether it be race, gender, or education levels and capabilities, these differences remain. Differences are two fold, mainly because they could help children in so many ways yet hurt or cause them stress in others. If we can be successful in helping today’s children understand that being different is acceptable, then we could help them see that once they appreciate themselves then we, as teachers, would be helping countless kids everyday.
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