Practicing What is Preached
There are so many readings and lessons regarding the acquisition of culturally sensitivity. How do we integrate these into our lives and into our classrooms? A large part of this is self-awareness: understanding and overcoming biases and assumptions in ourselves that transfer into the classroom and our work with children and youth. Biases that interfere with educational outcomes extend beyond ethnicity, such as gender, weight, age and disability biases. Check out the link below to take a short test to identify possible biases you may have.
A factor that enables us to learn cultural biases is social segregation. This plays out educationally as we are segregated ethnically, socioeconomically, and developmentally. Students receive “pull out,” services rather than inclusion in the classroom. Teachers work in a compartmentalized fashion, rather than collaboratively.
There is a movement toward inclusion in the classroom. A middle school in Beaverton, Oregon, which has a high percentage of ELL students, is moving toward a common core model, were the ELL teacher is collaborating with the core teachers to better serve the students. Check this article out for more information:
Special education is another area of segregated education. Children are either pulled out to receive specialized education or held in self-contained classrooms, with part-time opportunity for inclusion to general education classes. Separating populations denies all learners the benefits of diverse peer influences. It is also another cog in the segregation machine, propagating the lack of cultural understanding and diversity needed to overcome the culture of power influences, assumptions, and judgments plaguing our educational system and society as a whole. Check out this article to learn more about special education inclusion:
I encourage you to think broadly about cultural sensitivity and the root and permeation of cultural hierarchy. Perhaps, when our children experience inclusive education; interacting with a diverse population of learners, it will help to bring about thoughtful consideration and respect, qualities inherent in cultural understanding.