Culture and Diversity in the Classroom

Culture, diversity, and race impact every aspect of life and this is no different in the school environment. In schools, people are expected to associate, and get along with people of different beliefs, races and cultures even though it is not an expectation for everyone in day to day life. However, from my own readings of issues in today’s society many are because of people’s lack of respect for people of different beliefs. Children are expected to be educated and open in discussions on differences whereas adults are seen as “educated” and set in their ways and beliefs that will not be changed.

Something I thought was really interesting which was a new idea to me was the culture iceberg. Looking at this diagram made me realize that though we recognize different cultures we do so in a very shallow style focusing only on holidays, and food generally practicing a type of tokenism. With that said we never take the time to look into the purpose of holidays of our own cultures let alone of a different culture. I find this is quite disheartening and as a future educator, I would like to implement more cultural awareness studies into the classroom.

SA40 If I Really Knew You (The Cultural Iceberg) – A Kids' Guide ...

This reading once again emphasized the importance of having a connection with students and an understanding of their home life. However, this understanding is not only important to recognize struggles at home but also their culture and practices at home as they can impact their socialization and school environment. With having this understanding it is also important to have an understanding of cultural differences and the dangers of cultural stereotyping. I feel that too often we ignore how people identify culturally as a person who may be African-Canadian may just identify as African or Canadian. I saw many demonstrations of this in my high school towards the First Nations community. I saw many teachers look towards First Nations for a different opinion when it came to religion, elevation, etc. where many of them though identify as First Nations do not practice their religion/customs in a way they are comfortable teaching these practices to others or “representing their racial community. From witnessing this it seemed to create an awkward environment for all of the students especially the First Nations student as they were expected to be different because of their race and some admitted to feeling judged for not being different/celebrating their culture more.

By understanding these cultural differences and how it may impact them in the school environment should come with a better understanding of the student’s abilities and their home life. It is important for teachers to have this understanding of their students and their abilities and interests and recognize that all of these students are at different academic levels and being able to support every student in their learning and their culture. It is students who have not been challenged that feel unnoticed and are often the ones to slip through the tracks. As a teacher, it is our job to be understanding and encouraging to every student of every culture, race, ethnicity, and beliefs.

I was always told growing up that we were to be “colour blind” and ignore the cultural differences of people. Now after studying more, I know that this is not the way that people should live their life and we should all instead embrace the different cultures and take these considerations into the environment we create for our students.

So I leave wondering this: How much cultural discussion should happen in the classroom? And is it something that should be discussed or just encouraged?

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