Diversity plays an important role in the classroom and beyond. The influence diversity has in teaching brings about the importance of culturally responsive teaching. For some students, the culture of studies in school that differ from the culture of home and the community can become challenging. As an educator it is imperative that you recognize the individual needs if the students while creating a culturally responsive environment that will encourage them to relate and influences them to engage in compelling learning experiences.
Humans are cultural beings. We learn to communicate and understand our world through the context of our languages, traditions, behaviours, beliefs and values. Our cultural experiences and values shape the way we see ourselves and what we think is important. When individuals are part of a cultural group, we learn the ways of that culture (e.g., behaviour and beliefs), which enable us to feel like we belong to our community. Cultural perspectives also in uence how we parent, how we understand children, how we help them grow up and how we teach them new skills. (Kids Matter, n.d.)
We believe in the importance of promoting quality early learning environments for children that are culturally and developmentally appropriate. Research suggests adults who engage children in culturally responsive educational experiences help to:
· Build young children’s self-confidence and skills
· Increase children’s awareness, appreciation and inclusion of diverse beliefs and cultures
· Maximize children’s academic achievement and educational success (Nebraska Extension- Early Childhood Development, n.d.)
What can I do to support children’s social and cultural development?
Create culturally responsive activities: Intentionally promote and encourage cultural diversity with young children by creating a multisensory environment where they can speak, touch, taste, see, and feel their culture and the culture of others. For example, help children “see” culture and encourage early literacy by using mirrors to engage infants and toddlers in baby talk as they explore the physical characteristics and differences among themselves and others. Label objects or areas in the educational environment using multiple languages, including sign language. If only one language is spoken in your classroom or home childcare setting, consider the languages spoken in the larger community.
Learn from families: Partner with families to better understand their family structure and culture. Set up multiple ways to learn from families such as:
• Diverse communication methods: When asked for suggestions on effective ways to communicate, parents in the study shared their preferences for teachers to just ask them what’s the best way to connect with their family. Parents suggested diverse methods such as texting, phone calls, face-to-face conversations during pickup and drop off, and two-way folders. Two-way folders are a form of written communication designed for parents and teachers to share back and forth what the child is learning both at home and school. The two-way folder can be shared daily or weekly. Two-way folders are a great way for parents and teachers to collaborate to support the learning goals of the child in both settings.
• Family nights and home visits: One way to learn more about the culture and family experiences of children in your program is to have scheduled opportunities throughout the year to bring families together to learn and explore cultures represented in the program and community.
Use your resources: Sometimes it can be overwhelming as a teacher to know where to begin to integrate cultural diversity for young children. Therefore, starts with the resources right in your early care program (University of Nebraska Lincoln, n.d.).
“The family is profoundly important to the developmental, emotional and cognitive growth of a child,” says Tamara Gold, a New York psychotherapist and parenting coach. “A child will learn about relationships, manners, self-esteem, worth and loyalty, all by watching and participating in family.”
Kids Matter. (n.d.). Retrieved from Austrailian Early Childhood Mental Heatlh Initiative: https://www.kidsmatter.edu.au/sites/default/files/public/KM%20C1_Cultural%20Diversity_Culture%20Matters%20for%20Development.pdf
Nebraska Extension- Early Childhood Development. (n.d.). Retrieved from University of Nebraska-Lincoln: http://child.unl.edu/cultural-diversity
University of Nebraska Lincoln. (n.d.). Retrieved from Culture Matters — Strategies to Support Young Children’s Social and Cultural Development: http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/g2241.pdf