Our country is truly a melting pot with people from all different walks of life. It’s a place for dreamers, full of opportunity, where we’re free to strive to be the best version of ourselves. Our world is becoming even more diverse as time goes on — just imagine what it will look like when your students are grown ups! As teachers, it’s our job to prepare them to be responsible and kind members of their community. You have a tremendous opportunity to teach your little ones love, kindness, and acceptance, even if it’s not being taught in their homes.
Making a Change: It Starts in Your Classroom!
As you surely already know, our country still faces many problems when it comes to diversity. Many people continue to experience racism and discrimination based on the their beliefs, cultural preferences, weight, religion, and the way they live their lives.
As a teacher, it’s important to be empathetic to this problem and remain consciously aware of it, especially if you or any of your students (or their families) experience these things. You have the power to impact how your little ones think about differences during the most crucial time of their development.
Research has found that children as young as three have biases; however, research has also found that these early years can make a HUGE impact on the thoughts and views children internalize regarding acceptance and cultural differences. Even better: YOU can reverse biases that your students are exposed to at home.
That means (in case you forgot) you are seriously, critically, incredibly important. You matter, and what you teach in your classroom can actually change the world!
What Cultural Competency Looks Like
Teaching with cultural competence means you’re successful at teaching children from cultures other than yours, and are accepting and loving, without biases.
Maybe all of the children in your room look the same and are from the same area. Well, guess what? You still have different cultures in your room!
Perhaps one family has a stay at home parent while another has two working parents. Maybe one is a military family or has a parent who is in law enforcement, while another has a parent who works night shift, or their family is in agriculture and has a farm. Those are all very different home lives and ways of doing life, all mixed together in one room.
Acceptance in Action
Studies have shown that very few children actually attend a racially and economically diverse classroom. Armed with this knowledge, we as teachers become accountable for teaching children to understand and accept differences, and unlearn any biases they may bring with them into your classroom.
Children aren’t afraid to ask big questions. We shouldn’t be afraid to answer them! Their questions about history and what is happening in the world are important. We need to be well-prepared and comfortable in answering their questions in a developmentally appropriate way that promotes critical thinking and problem solving about social justice issues.
Yes, finding a response is challenging, but the spontaneous questions from our little learners give us a window to impact their thoughts about diversity and how they treat others in the future. Use these instances well, as an opportunity to make your students feel safe and teach them how people who are different can come together to change the world.
Let Your Lessons Change the World
You know what’s going on in the world. At some point, your little ones are going to want to know, too, or at least understand things. We encourage you to embrace these questions, not shy away from them. Children have a natural curiosity about differences — use it for good! Trust yourself and make these raw moments a time for conversations, where you can teach your students that “We are different, but the same!” Teach love, and watch what it does.
At Impact Early Education, we know your work is never done. That’s why we provide valuable professional development courses for preschool teachers, directors, and owners in a way that works for you. To learn more, explore our courses or contact us today!