According to the U. Census Bureau, in , 3. And by , nearly half of all U. No doubt this can be hard work. It takes time and effort to learn about unfamiliar cultures. It takes stretching our powers of empathy and creativity to adjust teaching practices to fully include families of different cultures. But this hard work can also be exhilarating. As teachers, we come into the profession because we find joy in seeing children learn. Just think of how much children can grow socially and academically when our teaching reflects the traditions and contributions of all the cultures in our schools.
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Many resources—books, websites, community groups, and families and children themselves—can suggest practical ways to welcome families from diverse cultures see end of this article. Rather than adding more such ideas, this article offers instead one overarching goal and one fundamental belief to keep in mind while taking those practical steps to reach out. Activities such as celebrating holidays from various cultures and decorating a bulletin board to reflect diverse cultures are worthwhile.
For example, we could look for people at school or in the community to translate letters and other school-to-home communications. Multiethnic Education: Theory and Practice. Bennett, C. Preparing teachers for cultural diversity and national standards of academic excellence.
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Multicultural Education 1 3 : 22— Cross, B. How do we prepare teachers to improve race relations? Educational Leadership 50 8 : 64— Davis, K. Multicultural classrooms and cultural communities of teachers. Teaching and Teacher Education 11 6 : — Foster, M. African-American teachers and culturally relevant pedagogy.
Banks ed. Garcia, J. Multicultural education in teacher preparation programs—A political or an educational concept? Phi Delta Kappan 74 3 : — Goodman J. Becoming an elementary social studies teacher: A study of perspectives. Theory and Research in Social Education 13 2 : 1— Grant, C. Education that is multicultural and the relationship between preservice campus learning and field experiences.
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As a society and within our educational institutions, discussions about bias, diversity, discrimination, and social justice tend to happen in middle and high schools. We've somehow decided that little kids can't understand these complex topics, or we want to delay exposing them to injustices as long as possible even though not all children have the luxury of being shielded from injustice.
However, young children have a keen awareness of and passion for fairness. They demand right over wrong, just over unjust. And they notice differences without apology or discomfort. Racial identity and attitudes begin to develop in children at a young age.
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In terms of bias, by age three or four , white children in the U. Further, current research suggests that children as young as three years old, when exposed to prejudice and racism, tend to embrace and accept it even though they might not understand the feelings. The good news is that bias can be unlearned or reversed if we're exposed to diversity in a positive way.
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Harnessing young children's desire for fairness and using it as opening to discuss bias and discrimination is not a hard leap, but one that needs to be made explicitly and with instruction. They are also not afraid to comment on observed differences. Decades of research indicate that even if parents and adults are not talking about race or other differences, children still notice differences and prejudice. If we choose not to teach or talk about it, children's notions about race and differences will go unchecked and likely become further entrenched in their minds.
It's also important that adults in children's lives do not perpetuate the idea that we should be "colorblind" to racial differences or shush them when they notice someone with a disability. Sometimes adults do this out of their own discomfort with talking about differences, or because they think noticing differences somehow makes you biased. We want to encourage children to notice differences because they do so naturally, yet at the same time, honor people's identities without judging or discriminating based on differences.