Diversity in education is a wonderful opportunity to create a better sense of community for our kids. Embracing diversity means accepting differences in others. To raise broad-minded and well-educated children we need to teach them to stand up to intolerance and discrimination and to reject stereotypes.
Children need to learn to not prejudge others, tolerate difference and show respect for themselves and for others. Similarities have to be recognized and differences in appearance or behaviour openly discussed. A diverse classroom can help the children to realise that all people are unique and that differences are good and are valuable. Children need to learn how to appreciate and value other opions and ideas. They need to learn to respect others and appreciate differences. So they learn how to adapt to change und new surroundings and learn to cherish diversity. But easier said than done! Multicultural classrooms pose lots of challenges especially to the inexperienced teacher. Children are so easy to manipulate and influence. They seek acceptance by peers and often it is a struggle to change perceptions and set the tone for a welcoming and accepting class atmosphere. A sincere teacher who shows concern for his pupils will always be seen as a strong person. Trust and commitment will always help to have a wonderful base for building a diverse and respectful class.
Teachers play a vital role as they shape the children’s world. Educators lead by example, provide guidance and set rules to follow, thus their behavior and habits are modeled by the children.
Be passionate and inspire your pupils and students. Show then how much you love the subject and sharing your insights, and tell them often how much they can achieve if they put the mind to it. Believe in your students and believe in their success.
Ourdoors activities and school camps offer great opportunities to learn about teamwork and each others strengths and weaknesses.
Teachers can encourage children to learn about their strengths and individuality and not to focus on other people’s perceptions of one’s self. Exposure to diverse situations, people and surroundings offer valuable input. Different intellectual and physical abilities, different racial, religious and sexual orientation needs to be encountered and stumbling blocks in our society be removed. Different cultural perceptions and various cultural heritage, traditions and preferences e.g. food and appearance need to be discussed.
Teachers therefore need to be prepared and learn about their own cultural background as much as about their pupils social, racial and cultural backgrounds.
If a teacher possesses only imited knowledge and understanding of cultural differences in the group of learners this poses huge challenges in classroom teaching and may affect negatively the 'student's ability to become successful learners' as Montgomery describes. In the next paragraph we will show several ways to influence children's development positively. These activities should be incorporated in daily routines. Always remember that, learning about diversity and that everybody is valuable to society are the most important life skills children are taught at school.
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Regina Gräff is the founder and editor of ExpatCapeTown.com and Kids-World-Travel-Guide.com and co-author of the 'Living in South Africa' handbook. Born and raised in Germany, she has a degree (MA phil) in languages and intercultural communication. Regina is a serial expat and has worked as a teacher and educational consultant in various countries including the USA, Australia, Singapore and the UK. Since 2005, she lives with her family in Cape Town/South Africa.
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