Photo by Omar Lopez on Unsplash
As global educators, we want our students to be open-minded, culturally aware, and appreciate and celebrate diversity. Our aim in the classroom is to create global nomads who will be free from discrimination and bias when encountering others as they go through life. Within the context of school, we never like to see students bullied, rejected, or excluded. The reality is that racism, discrimination, and various forms of bias impact us all, both locally and globally. Prejudice hinders ambitions, self-esteem, future aspirations, and may have a lasting impact on emotional wellbeing.
As professionals, how can we guide and foster cultural awareness, kindness, and respect for humankind? How can we prepare our students for a culturally diverse planet that is always evolving and people who are different and unique?
We can teach students to value diversity and to embrace their ethnicity, nationality, and individual uniqueness. To be proud of the characteristics that make them who they are as individuals. To value all people, regardless of skin color, linguistic ability, education, or socioeconomic status.
In the wake of civil unrest and protests globally for racial equality and justice, there has not been a better time to bring diversity and cultural awareness to the forefront of the curriculum and in social-emotional learning lessons.
The following are ideas and ways educators can promote diversity within your classroom or school:
- Students form impressions about people they meet from infancy. It is essential to have conversations, lessons, and units about diversity and cultural awareness as soon as students are developmentally ready. By exposing our students to many types of diversity early on, they will begin and learn to appreciate and celebrate diversity rather than fear difference. Lessons on individual and cultural diversity as part of our curriculum and in social-emotional learning lessons will help students recognize bias and stereotypes when they see them.
- We can teach our students specifically about unlearning bias and how not to judge people, places, and cultures prior to having personal life experience.
- Welcome class discussions and conversations about individual differences, even though you may not always know how to respond. Respond to children's questions and comments about difference even if you're not sure what to say. If you are unsure how to respond, consider saying something such as, “let me think about your question and I will get back with you next class.”
- Listen to students’ thoughts and feelings about what is going on in the world and how they are internalizing media and the impact it may have on them.
- Frame your responses to the child's developmental level. Students are naturally curious as to why people are different than themselves, as well as the ways in which they are similar.
- As professionals, we should model the behaviors and attitudes we would like our students to develop in the future.
- It is our ethical obligation not to allow students to make prejudicial statements without proper follow-up and counseling.
- Within the classroom, community, and school settings, strive to create opportunities for students to make friends with others outside of their normal circle. Most international schools have students and families from numerous ethnicities and nationalities; this is a prime opportunity for students to get out of their comfort zones and meet and learn about students from around the globe.
- Encourage students and families to share traditions and cultures within and outside of the school setting.
- Aim to expose students to role models from their own culture as well as to those from other cultures.
As educators who work with students and families, our openness to discuss, guide, and encourage our youth and future leaders of the world will have an enormous impact on how people view each other in the years to come and will make the world a better place for humankind.