Heather’s Moms Got Married
In this short story, Mary Cowhey, a 2nd grade teacher from Northampton, Massachusetts explains the family diversity in her classroom and how she approaches different family situations with her students. Talking about gays and lesbians does not necessarily mean that we are introducing sexuality to children in the classroom. It is just showing the kids that everybody is different and that it is ok to be different from one another. If one kid raises a question about what being “gay” is like, you can simply answer that it is when two people from the same gender love each other in a romantic way. It is also very important to answer the kids’ questions about the matter and not just put it under the carpet. Once again, a teacher’s actions and/or inactions can be the difference in whether or not the child will develop prejudices.
Annie Johnston discusses the importance of gay teachers “coming out” to their classroom to encourage positive gay role models. Straight, bisexual and transgender teachers can also help create an environment free of “slurs” that target gay people by establishing an anti-slur policy and taking action when students do not follow the rules. Support groups for gays/lesbians within schools are also very important so that children feel they have the opportunity to talk with people that are found in a similar situation in a safe environment. By establishing policies in the classroom, teaming up with other teachers and working your way through the school, we are creating an environment where kids and their families will feel safe to expose their identity to others without being bullied or left out.
‘Curriculum is Everything That Happens’
In an interview, Rita Tenorio discusses how important it is for new teachers to go beyond what is written in the curriculum. As a teacher, educating children towards multiculturalism and social justice is one of the most important things we have the power to do. New teachers need to be ready to learn from their colleagues, superiors and from people in the community who have social and political consciousness. It is also possible to find pertinent information and discussions related to education online. By doing so, it is easier for teachers to be involved and to keep focus on their goal to teach towards social justice. Teachers should encourage children to share a little bit of their background with the classroom and as a result, both teacher and students will learn, correcting some assumptions they might have had in the past.
Working Effectively with English Language Learners
There are many different programs for second-language learners and bilingual learners that teachers need to adapt their teaching methods to. Even though the children might be learning a new language, it is respectful for teachers to include a few sentences or common expressions in their students’ native tongue. This method demonstrates that we are culturally sensitive and the students might want to share some information or traditions of their own with the classroom. The teacher shall not single out students to read material aloud for the child might be very uncomfortable and not wanting to participate. Teachers should teach vocabulary words and concepts with visual aids rather than through lecture and verbal instruction before whole-class lessons. Reading in groups, acting plays and skits are ways to encourage kids to learn in a fun/stress-free environment.
Teaching Controversial Content
This short story demonstrates the fears that teachers and new teachers can encounter when they want to introduce controversial content in their lessons such as social justice and cultural diversity. You have no idea how the parents, teachers, students, colleagues, principal and community will react to the subjects you introduce in your classroom. There are schools that are more conservative than others, but if the teacher communicates with his superior and his colleagues about his intentions, the odds are that they will welcome the change or just not care about what you decide to teach in your class. “Only you” have the authority to decide what you will be teaching. By doing this, teachers are promoting changes in the classroom and the school context as well as encouraging the students to think critically and correct pre-conceived ideas.
Unwrapping the Holidays
Dale Weiss shares with us the “December Incident” where in his first year of teaching in a conventional school, he had to face a few problems concerning the celebrating of Christmas in the school. Not everybody celebrates Christmas so he decided to introduce his students to Hanukkah, Christmas in Mexico, Kwanzaa and the Winter Solstice, to introduce his class to cultural diversity, not religion. The principal thought it was a great idea to try to apply this openness to the school community, but some teachers felt like they were being challenged by a teacher who was fresh out of school. Some conflicts appeared, but overall Dale decided maybe he should of just applied this to his class to start and then gradually work his way to have his colleagues partake and then the school.