Start Seeing Diversity Blog: “We Don’t Say Those Words in Class!”

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Recently, I was at the grocery store and noticed an Asian family speaking to one another in a different language. Shortly after noticing this family, I saw a young white mother pass this family as her small child pointed, made a face, and exclaimed, “Why are they talking so funny?” The mother was profusely embarrassed and apologized to the family as she scowled at her son, swatted his hand, and told him how rude he was being.

While I’m sure the mother was embarrassed and reacted based on feeling badly for her son having caused any awkward feelings amongst the Asian family, she quickly negated any feelings her son had and put a hasty end to investigating these feelings further. In doing so, she reprimanded him from noticing and responding to diversity, rather than giving him a different way to communicate his observations and guiding this thought process.

An anti-bias educator may have responded differently to this child by asking questions like, “What makes you think they are talking funny?” “Have you ever heard people speaking different languages than the language you speak?” “Would you like to learn a different language?” Questions like these have the potential to turn this child’s response into a positive, productive conversation regarding diversity and equity. “What children ask, say, or do about any aspect of their own or others’ identities and differences are the wonderful “teachable moments” of anti-bias education” (Derman-Sparks and Olsen Edwards, 2010, p. 32).

Reference

Derman-Sparks, L., & Edwards, J. O. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children

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6 thoughts on “Start Seeing Diversity Blog: “We Don’t Say Those Words in Class!”

  1. The response that the mother gave implies “that something is “wrong” with the difference and can just teach them to stop asking questions” (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010). I agree with you. It was the perfect opportunity for the mother to give her son a teachable moment.

    Reference

    Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: NAEYC.

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  2. Hi Renee,
    I would like to share the saying in the media which I really appreciate, “Recognizing the existence of diverse cultural practices and diverse perspectives, and really becoming open to those perspectives, is critical to an anti-bias approach. (Laureate Education, n.d.).” That is what an anti-bias eductor should learn and do inside and outside the classroom. Thank you for sharing your post.

    Reference:
    Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Start seeing diversity: Race/ethnicity [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

    Xiaowan

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  3. Renee, I agree with you that most people react to children’s comments by putting it to a “hasty end”. Children are very observant and like to comment on their perceptions and that does not mean they are trying to offend anyone. It is the responsibility of the adults who hear these comments to not dismiss and ignore them, children need support.

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  4. Katika

    Renee,
    I enjoyed reading your blog. All too often scenarios like this takes place every day. The way in which an adult react to the situation will shape the child’s perception of others as well as themselves. We have to conscious of the messages we are providing to our young children. This starts with adults also looking at themselves to uncover their own biases or prejudices.

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  5. Cynthia

    Renee,
    Great blog! I agree that maybe the mother should have allowed the child to ask the question; “why is that person talking funny?” yes, to that child it sounded funny, “different”, or foreign. When we allow children to ask questions, it helps them understand things in the world they are so curious about.
    Keeping the dialogue, and open-ended questions going among those peers, about times they have heard someone speak a different language, will help further their thinking process, and help them to accept and embrace differences, rather than to fear them.

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  6. Stephanie H.

    Hi Renee,
    Thanks for your post. I liked that you pointed out that the boy did not do anything wrong by noticing the diversity around him. A lot of times people reprimand children for just noticing something is different about someone. I think it is very healthy for children to acknowledge the differences, as well as similarities, they see in people. However, I agree with you that those moments should be moments used to guide children’s observations to be respectful and appreciative of diversity.

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