Have you ever wondered why some teachers do an extraordinary job with creating an environment that embraces the cultural background and experiences of children in their classrooms? Why do some teachers do a fantastic job in weaving diversity into the structure of children’s daily experiences?
I believe these extraordinary individuals take seriously their responsibilities to ensure those future generations of “nation builders” better accept their neighbors regardless of their hair style, head covering, unique physical differences and/or appearances. These extraordinary individuals understand that the term “unity” does not take away from one’s own uniqueness. When you enter their classroom, you instantly know every child shares in ownership of the environment. In their classrooms, you will notice displays from lives of all children in the room, but also of people from around the world. In these classrooms, when children are questioned about their similarities and differences, without fear or hesitation, and with respect they share many things about the subject, such as when 4-year-old “Paul shares that Annie’s home (an apartment) is different from his (a trailer), but she likes her home, and I like mine.” Paul and Annie begin to share the designs of their living quarters; they both have windows, beds, couches, etc. and even that one is long and one is high in the sky. How do children comfortably share their similarities and differences with such ease? Because their teachers go the extra mile to help, children learn to understand the importance of self. These dedicated teachers invested time with sincerity to learn each child’s background and integrate this information into the environment regularly. Their reward, earned for their sincere efforts to learn about children and families, is a high level of trust from both children and their parents.
These innovative teachers do not worry about pointing out their students’ differences and similarities. These individuals embrace and accept with enthusiasm the knowledge, talent, and contribution of all the children and their families. These teachers are full of compassion and respect for their children, their family, and the world.
These committed teachers indeed make profound contributions toward changing how people of the world will be viewed. From my personal observations over the years, these committed and motivated educators displayed five qualities:
- Self- Assurance: Teachers believe in themselves, they trust their work, and are not concerned about the perception of others.
- Advocate: Teachers through their work taught children to speak up about whom they were, to advocate for themselves.
- Patient: They accepted that working with diverse population require time. They listen with an open ear to learn about their children’s lives.
- Tolerant: Through their patience, teachers gained a broader understanding about fairness and the importance of accepting others regardless of their opinions, practices, race, religion, and nationality and transferred these traits into their classroom environment.
- Resourceful: From the classroom, to the community, to the world, these teachers without diminishing their present environment collaborated with numerous individuals and resources to expose children to the world of others.
By Dot Hill, Early Childhood Consultant and Trainer