Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Respecting Differences

What does this mean in education - "cultural competency"?

Today our schools number many nationalities, colors, religions, etc. among their student bodies. Teachers don't really have a choice about which kids they get in their classes. If a student is 8 years old, he is likely to be in 2nd or 3rd Grade.

How do teachers deal with students of different ethnic backgrounds, religions, color, ability to speak/understand/write English, size, build, etc.?

One approach is the one-size-fits-all mentality or school protocol. "This is school. This is not Burger King; you get it our way. And you'd better be able to keep up."

Another approach is to realize that every student is entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education.

Just because a child doesn't speak English or is Muslim or Jewish or is from Africa or Ethiopia or Russia doesn't matter. It's the teacher and the school system who must adjust.

When teachers refer to certain students as "those" students or she's from "Russss-sheeee-ya", that hurts the child and it hurts all the rest of the students in the class. They don't learn acceptance and tolerance and to respect differences.

There is a wealth of information at www.TeachingTolerance.org In November around the country schools participate in Mix-It-Up, a day when the barriers comes down and the cliques are broken into pieces.

Is there a school in McHenry County that participates in Mix-It-Up? This year Mix-It-Up Day was November 13, 2008. If you know of one, post its name here.

I have recommended Mix-It-Up to District 200. They tried it one year. I don't know that they ever participated in it again. My inquiry to D200 this year went unanswered.

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