Are You Leading a Multicultural Classroom?
Jun 27, 2016 Teaching Methodology 2963 Views
The following reflection on education is inspired by the work of Paulo Freire, an educator I greatly admire, as a fellow pedagogue and human rights advocate.
This Brazilian educator postulated a different kind of learning experience would be a key factor to liberate the oppressed rural masses from the control of the oppressor's education system. He viewed this system as perpetuating their servile and subservient condition.
According to Freire, the simple truth was that the education of the "oppressed" and the education of the "oppressor" should not be the same, as their experiences of everyday life were not rooted in the same tangible reality.
He believed, as I do, that Education must reflect the reality of the learner, if not, it won't come from a place of significance, it won't be a source of empowerment, and belonging.
In his book, La Pedagogia del Oprimido, (the pedagogy of the oppressed) Freire talks about literacy as the path for people to find their own humanity and be able to write their own life.
So, we must stop and ask ourselves, are our children being empowered to write their own stories? Are we giving them the tools and encouraging them to define their own humanity?
These are questions that should be asked now, as our children are first exposed to school and formal education, an education that is still very much designed to develop a single path and a single mindset. Where does this leave the child trying to come up with an identity of his own?
The Strategy: Developing multicultural classrooms where diversity is encouraged and identity is respected.
-Multicultural classrooms have educators willing to expand beyond their frame of reference.
A teacher doesn't have to be bilingual to connect and bond with children. A teacher has to be open to coaching and able to create an atmosphere of inclusion. This inclusion will benefit all students, not just those from other cultural backgrounds.
Teachers in multicultural classrooms should be given the resources and mentoring to develop a deeper understanding of the places where their students and their families come from. The point of all this goes back to Freire, and the importance of teaching children by referencing images, words and actions they are familiar with, as examples from their own culture, to explain and give new significance to the material being taught in the classroom.
-Multicultural classrooms should display engaging diversity.
Once again, to develop diverse classrooms should be the goal of all teachers in all schools. We live in a diverse world, and as soon as all children familiarize themselves with the concept of diversity and feel pride and joy in leaning about other cultures and other languages, while sharing their own, the stronger their identities will form, and the greater chance they will have to protect themselves against prejudice and stereotypes.
Education is not a "once size fits all" experience, because each child-learner is unique. Belonging is a difficult process all in itself without the added element of acculturation and language acquisition, without having to fight back prejudices and stereotypes. Especially when you are a child who may not fully understand why you are being signaled out as different. When we start with the needs of these children and those of their families, we should be prepared to better address their concerns, guide them through the transition process and be a support system.
In his book, Freire talks about freeing the rural masses from an education that is setting them up, not only for failure, but for a life of submission to the dominant elite.
The concept, in a less radical way, should be applied though to the way we teach each learner from the start of their formative school years. They should be given the opportunities to approach literacy from the foundations of what their experiences are, not from intangible concepts and a reality they are not familiar with. More so, they should be made to feel included, and their parents and families as well.
There is no doubt in my mind that an educational experience that is community-oriented, child-centered and supportive of diversity and identity will exert a great deal of influence on the perceptions that both students and teachers have of school and life as a whole.