At our staff meeting on Monday, the lead teachers sat together to take a closer look at what we do at the Seed to promote diversity. Utilizing materials from Teaching Tolerance (http://www.tolerance.org), an educational project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, we began with these two questions for each teacher:
- How do you incorporate culture in your classroom?
- How do you invite families or guardians to share information about family cultures and traditions?
The list of responses was long. Beginning with the tiny toddlers to the 3rd/4th graders, teachers described ways they bring families into their classrooms. Some classes have parents come into the room to share the story of their child’s birth and babyhood. Others use photo displays to celebrate the diversity of their families. Many teachers invite parents or grandparents into their classes to share an expertise or special interest. One teacher described how she used Google Earth to show her preschoolers where a classmate was moving on the other side of the planet. Children’s literature is used in every classroom to expand cultural awareness.
As we often do, we then discussed ways to deepen our relationship with families and culture at the Seed. Since we use an emergent curriculum model, some teachers said they just wait till topics around diversity come up. This led to conversation about what we can do to set the stage for these topics to arise, much like planting seeds in a garden. We also made a list of challenging topics that arise from time to time, including: adoption, divorce, fostering, non-traditional families, incarceration, culture, race, absent parent, diversity, allergies, special needs, illness, death and dying, and gender identification.
It was evident from the conversation that our teachers have a genuine interest in addressing such topics, even when they take us out of our comfort zones. That said, as a staff we don’t want to say or do the wrong thing. We all agreed that we’d like more help when it comes to addressing challenging situations when they arise.
Soon we will be sending out a survey to parents and grandparents for input on how to improve our current practices with culture and diversity. We welcome your thoughts and suggestions. One teacher suggested we invite parents to come in to share cultural and family traditions on a more regular basis, similar to how we organize the Art Masterpiece program. We look forward to incorporating your ideas into our practices, opening hearts and minds to a wider range of experiences, and having more of the adults in our students’ lives be a part of the Seed curriculum. It seems like a perfect time to deepen our engagement with this world we share.