Teachers can use these tools to promote multicultural education in the classroom. There are so many strategies that it could feel overwhelming where to start, and access to diverse resources in your classroom is just the starting point. I will share how you can bring this philosophy to life with multiple perspectives at the forefront.
Students need to connect to their teachers, to their fellow classmates, in a way that is in a belonging classroom. Teachers need to create a classroom environment where children feel safe and have a sense of belonging—the way a classroom is decorated with posters that reflect the different ethnic and language groups. Simple greetings and phrases from multiple languages will help foster that sense of belonging.
Next, teachers need to better understand their students’ backgrounds by developing those relationships with their students. Because all students are different and learn differently, we must encourage multiple concepts to accommodate different learning styles. In my own classroom, I love teaching project-based units of study. One of our Units was titled African American Biography Hall of Fame. I gave my students a list of different African American leaders, scientists, activists, lawmakers, and other contributors and researched their person. They could create a poster, skit, or slide presentation when the research was over. Allowing students to choose to examine the names given opened their eyes to people they hadn’t learned about yet in school.
Educators need to look into historical and current events from books, project-based units, and assessments using multiple perspectives. What group was harmed or affected could be a person who identifies with that group? Educators know this can be hard to discuss or scramble to have a one-sided approach to teaching. We need to know that uncomfortable events required to teach are critical in bridging the gap of understanding. There is still a divide in even teaching a particular event with the notion of ‘let’s not and say we did’ Crossing our fingers to see if they’ll cover this subject next year is not productive.
When studying and researching specific topics, make sure that you have multiple resources to help show the event from all the affected groups’ lenses. For example, when I teach about slavery, I first start with the unit on Ancient African Kingdoms. We often begin with slavery in our educational system, which broaches stereotypes that Africans deemed less than human. I then intertwine the lens of the Age of Exploration with the perspective of what motivating factors were for the Europeans to colonize the Americas. I then combine that with the Americas’ Indigenous peoples and their traditions and life before European contact. Then we delve into what happens when these groups all encounter each other.
Foods and Festivals are great but let’s take it up a notch.
My students study a particular country to learn about their resources, cultural qualities, and governments system before celebrating with foods to share. I can’t tell you how big a fan I am with food and celebrating, but what good does that do to my students if they have no context of why we are eating or celebrating a particular holiday. Teachers, this is where things could fall flat if you don’t have your students take the adequate time to study these events, or you might end up with (Wow, hummus and falafel day, then back to algebra) Students need to know the importance of where that food originated from and why.
Invite families and community members
Our families are a great resource to continuing your Multicultural knowledge that should be used all year long, not just for ethnic holidays or months. Families really love to be included in their child’s learning. This also allows all students to see different groups and their roles in our community. This helps dispel many stereotypes of what a person of color as a parent is. The more our students see people that may not reflect who they are, this is an excellent way to continue the experience of what our world actually looks like.
Make sure that you make your curriculum rigorous that engages the social classroom community. If we want our children to learn to be critical thinkers, we must give them tools to learn from multiple perspectives to be culturally proficient. These are just a start to get you on your way to begin your Multicultural educational journey. You can find out more resources on my website.