Cultural diversity in classes can create challenges that can derail or damage your students’ learning experiences and sometimes affect the atmosphere for all the students in a class. Unfortunately, cultural differences can sometimes lead to bullying or some children feeling excluded.
You can avoid frustrations for your instructors and your students by being aware of the areas where diversity is most often visible. After raising awareness of these areas, create a plan for helping each student and instructor have a good learning experience.
DIVERSITY BECOMES EVIDENT
There are several ways that adults and children alike recognize those with cultural backgrounds different than our own. Besides the most obvious physical traits, there are three areas that signal diversity to us that are not obvious at a glance.
The growing number of non-English speaking people in the United States means that more languages are being spoken in children’s homes and brought into your facility and your classes. The first step is being knowledgeable of language barriers or challenges and making preparations to accommodate the impact this will have to your classes. This can be an opportunity for the class to be exposed to a different language and to learn about other languages.
Religious differences within your classes can become a challenge when holidays approach. Students whose holidays differ from those of the mainstream culture may feel excluded if your school recognizes and celebrates holidays that are. Again by simply being aware of the practices of all students and recognizing them, you can provide your students with a multi-cultural learning experience. When diversity becomes an issue in this regard, it may be a best practice approach your holiday seasons – especially religious ones – with conscious regard for the range of beliefs represented in your classes.
Different cultures have different attitudes, traditions and upbringing. What might be perceived in one culture as acceptable, may, in another culture, be offensive. Clear communication with your students and their parents is the best path to understanding and overcoming any challenges these differences can present.
DIFFERENCES DON’T ALWAYS BRING OUT OUR BEST
Unfortunately, differences can also bring out some of our more shameful traits.
Teasing can be good natured and fun. However, cultural diversity can be a delicate area for those who have a different perspective and therefore, teasing about their uniqueness can cause hurt feelings and resentment. This is as easily nipped in the bud as preventing the too-tall- child from ridicule.
Kids bully kids for many reasons. Often classmates who are “different” are the object of an escalated form of ridicule that is bullying. Hurtful nicknames, and other stigma-related topics can make the bullied student afraid of participating in or attending classes. The best practice in this circumstance is establishing policies – or anti-bullying codes – that are enforced when bullying occurs for any reason.
MAINTAINING THE POSITIVE
It is up to owners and instructors to make sure that cultural diversity is a positive! Students benefit from being around those who are different from them. It is a tremendous learning opportunity. Sometimes it helps to develop techniques that frame differences in a positive light.
Do not allow a diversity learning opportunity to pass you by because you don’t know about it. In addition to helping you to make your student feel comfortable in class, learning about your students and their families will make your relationship with them stronger.
You can reduce cultural barriers by encouraging students to share their family traditions with the class. In almost every situation, you can help students see the similarities as well as the differences in the practices of different cultures.
Name game it.
Students from other cultures may have names and pronunciations that are different than those in mainstream culture. Whether a student’s name is common or rare, it likely has some meaning behind it. Ask every student if they know if their name means something. You can also help student remember and be able to pronounce everyone’s name by singing a name song (such as The Name Game” or “Banana Song”) with everyone’s name on the first day of class.
KNOWLEDGE IS THE KEY
A theme is becoming evident – knowledge. If you don’t know your students and families, you will not be ready to take advantage of diversity opportunities with your students and you will also miss a distinct opportunity to nurture a family relationship by showing your consideration and understanding of the unique qualities that make families from cultures that are new to us special.