Developing anti-bias frameworks
Identities accepted and valued
Supportive systems and society
Trauma, tragedy, and turmoil advocated
Young, old, weak, and strong united.
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).
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
I have heard children use the term “gay” before. One particularly recent occurrence took place this school year when one of my students used this name to refer to a peer who had angered him. This particular child has a multitude of anger issues and often is very reactive to name-call amongst his peers. In this instance, I comforted the child who was emotionally distraught over being yelled at and called this, then proceeded to have a conversation with the other little boy. I asked him if he knew what “gay” meant or where he had heard it used before. The little boy admitted he did not know what the word meant and had heard it used in a derogatory fashion amongst members of his family. Comments such as these have carried such negative connotations for such a long time that they can be emotionally damaging to children’s self-esteem, especially when children are using words like this without any sort of frame of reference as to what they are saying. These comments made out of context will also continue to misrepresent words such as “gay” and send mixed messages regarding children’s identity (Derman-Sparks and Edwards, 2010).
One of my major concerns in terms of sexual orientation stems from the fact that as a Christian, I do not believe that homosexuality is right. While I know this is often not a popular view and is looked upon as intolerant, I am a firm believer in the old adage: “love the sinner, hate the sin.” While I am nowhere near intolerant of people living homosexual lives, it is not something I feel comfortable promoting within my Kindergarten classroom. I do however, believe in loving every child entrusted to my care and establishing strong partnerships with their parents regardless of their race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or anything else.
Derman-Sparks and Edwards Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: NAEYC.
One hope I have in regards to working with children and families who come from diverse backgrounds is that I would be able to make them feel valued and respected and that they would know that I have their child’s best interests at heart.
A goal I have is to work with families from their initial enrollment in learning more about their culture and diversity in order to better cultivate partnerships with them.
Lastly, I would like to thank Dr. Davis and the colleagues I interacted with throughout this class. I appreciate your feedback, transparency, and honesty. I have learned from all of you and hope to take what I have learned into my classroom and interactions with children and families. Thank you!
The country I chose for this assignment is Russia. In order to prepare myself to be culturally responsive to a family with this country of origin, I would do the following things:
- Ask the child to bring in pictures of his/her family and create a “My Family” book for the student to share with the class and have easy access to each day in order to feel more secure and comfortable in the classroom.
- Based on the fact that families are large and the family structure is so important to Russians, invite the whole family into the classroom for a “meet and greet” session.
- To better understand the family’s home life and structure, I would give the child an opportunity to draw their family and who lives in their home and then share this drawing with their class.
- Because grandmothers are often a lifeline of support to Russian families, I would want to incorporate and introduce this person to the classroom and create opportunities for her to volunteer in the classroom or come to a grandparent’s day.
- To give his/her classmates more of an opportunity to learn about Russian food, language, and other elements, I would create a share time in which students could bring in elements reflecting their cultural backgrounds.
I think these preparations would be beneficial to both myself and the family because it would advocate for the child and family in transitioning to a new culture. It would help in fostering a safe place for the child and would help in cultivating a relationship with the student and partnership with the parents.
(n.d.). In MasterRussian.com. Retrieved February 21, 2015, from http://masterrussian.com/russianculture/russian_family.htm
A time I can remember witnessing someone being the target of oppression was when a close friend of mine recounted to me a story of when he dated a white girl (he is black) and made arrangements to purchase a plane ticket and visit her family for Easter. Only later did he find out that his girlfriend’s grandmother was uncomfortable with him spending time with the family and gave them an ultimatum: either she would be attending Easter festivities with the family or he would; the two could not jointly attend.
Prejudice in this situation clearly diminished equity in that the grandmother and ultimately family chose to uninvite my friend solely based on his difference in race. There was nothing he could have said or done differently to effect change in this decision.
For me, I can remember sobbing after hearing my friend describe this experience and see how clearly it affected him. I remember truly realizing in that moment that racism still existed and did so on the basis of ignorance and hate. While up until that time, I was unaware that racism still occurred, I realized that ignorance and hatred are characteristics that will always exist, therefore racism will be difficult to ever truly overcome.
In order for this situation to be turned into an opportunity of greater equity, the family and grandmother’s attitude regarding prejudice and racism would have to change. Hatred would have to turn into compassion and love. Prejudice would have to turn into acceptance and empathy. Ignorance would have to turn into knowledge and understanding.
While this instance of microaggression did not occur this week, it did take place this school year. I have a child in my kindergarten class who has a plethora of behavior issues. There are many interventions I have established for him in my classroom on a daily basis; the most significant of these is patience and love (and on my good days, an abundance of both of these). A few months ago, another teacher had a run-in with this particular student in which the student was very defiant. After recalling this incident to me, the teacher said, “you know what [this student] really needs is a tough, non-nonsense man in his life.” After taking a moment to recover and not come unglued, I responded that I thought love was truly what this child needed and that’s what I was (and am) working on providing him with every day that he is in school. To be the target of microaggression was infuriating and extremely frustrating. For a colleague who has never been in my classroom to witness the strong relationships I establish with each of my students (especially the ones that are hard to love), this comment was hurtful and I found myself feeling defensive because of it. My being a woman has nothing to do with the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of my teaching.
My observation experiences this week affected my perception of stereotypes and prejudice in that I realized that a major root cause of this is often ignorance. People can be so unaware of how their words or actions can affect others and therefore speak and act in such under thought, careless ways. It has also broadened my own frame of reference in making me more aware, sensitive, and intentional with the way I speak and act around diversity.