In order to see multiculturalism for what it truly is, one must be willing to be open, and accepting of others with complete transparency. One should not judge based on society, social influences, and or stereotypes. Nonetheless, you must question how you can be an effective multicultural educator, what factors play a role, and how you can effectively model with success as a person, as a teacher, as a classroom and demonstrate as a whole. In many schools, multicultural education is approached as if it were divorced from the structures and ideologies of society (Nieto pg 4). Schools are depicted on politics and deprive people of basic needs in their own schools (PRLS 2005 01/30). In other words, teachers are under educated, and unequipped with the resources that can benefit students learning and aid in furthering their knowledge of multi-culture.
I hope as an educator, I can make my classroom become a safe, unjudged environment for children of all backgrounds, even for the parents. I am going to be both a general and special education teacher, which will give me students with many differences, and culture is definitely one that is ignored, so, I feel. I can openly admit that society sometimes has clouded my judgement with other cultures making me create biases and as an educator, I am working to get rid of that. I cannot be one to preach about acceptance if society has taught me the complete opposite. There must be change, and in order to exhibit change and acceptance, I must start with myself. Now being fully aware and informed on how to be an effective multicultural teacher, I must create a multicultural environment in the classroom which is a crucial step in the teaching profession.
Now, more than ever, teachers and educators need to be attentive to the benefits of creating an environment that is advantageous for diverse students and making all children feel welcomed and accepted despite who they are, where they come from, and how they look. Students who are exposed to the benefits of a good, multicultural classroom environment are more likely to excel in school, and can be beneficial to each child in the long run. “Students’ lives are affected by (inexorably) economic, social, and political conditions in schools and society, that is by the sociopolitical context in which they live and learn. This means that we need to consider these conditions in our conceptualization and implementation of multicultural education” (Nieto pg 7). Furthermore, teachers who incorporate a multicultural environment in the classroom are more attentive to the needs of their students and how they can help them in multiple aspects. This creates a reciprocal understanding between myself and students which in turn creates a positive learning environment which everyone can learn from and grow from. For example, multicultural day in schools only demonstrates to students and emphasizes how different they really are giving a message of us & them. It’s not embracing each individual and allowing educators to see each individual child for who they are.
‘We who are in the business of teaching future teachers need to expose them to differences of all kinds; we need to help them understand that the differences students embody can’t be left outside the classroom door; and that we need to encourage them to find ways to use their students’ differences in the service of their learning.’ (Nieto, 2002). In order to be successful, you as an educator must look at yourself from the outside in. You must leave your own personal biases aside, and be willing and open to not judge a book by its cover, or impose stereotypes in your classroom.
It is also important to bear in mind that your attitudes are influenced by your own culture. If my students’ cultures differ from mine, I need to be sensitive to the differences in attitudes that may arise in the classroom. The first step to creating a culturally responsive classroom is being aware of your own actions and working to shift your mindset into ones that are culturally inclusive and open minded. This also applies to my interactions with the students’ families and their communities. Being sensitive to how certain cultures may stress different ways of learning is a key first step towards building a positive, respectful relationship with families from diverse cultural backgrounds.
Some great ways for an educator to incorporate multiculturalism into the classroom is by helping students understand what it is, and the different cultures each student comes from. The teacher can have students bring in food from their specific/native country and talk about it, that way they get a sense of being there and the kinds of foods they eat, why they’re prepared, if they are for a special occasion such as a festival or just the native dish. Another way an educator can implement multiculturalism is by having a show-and-tell. The teacher can have students bring in a specific item from their country/culture, explain what it is, why it’s important in that country and answer other students’ questions. Adding different cultural books to a classroom’s library is another great way to get students to learn about each other; books are a great way of teaching students because it expands their knowledge of something and makes them more aware of differences around them, as well as the world.
I also think language is a very important aspect of teaching students about multiculturalism. Nieto also believes that it is important to think of diversity as a benefit rather than a challenge to address and see the possibility of others’ differences adding to others’ experiences. As she puts it, ‘rather than thinking of a child as a ‘non-English speaker,’ think of that child as a Japanese speaker, a Navajo speaker, a Spanish speaker, or whatever language the child speaks. It makes a huge difference in how you approach students because, instead of seeing them as bringing nothing to their education, you recognize that they come with all sorts of talents to contribute.’ (Nieto, 2000). Language brings people together and it helps break down barriers and misinterpretations. As an educator the breakdown of language can bring a student-teacher relationship closer, as well as student-student and teacher-parent relationships. These are some ways in which biases, cultural and religious gaps can be closed in a multicultural classroom setting.