A child walks into a classroom. All student eyes turn to look. A teacher in front of the room walks over and says something the child can not understand. A child’s embarrassment overwhelms him. Staring, in his country, is a sign of disrespect. The teacher says something to the rest of the group and they turn around and ignore his presence. He sits at the desk the teacher has given him and hopes no one will talk to him and maybe, just maybe, if he is quiet enough, everyone will forget that he is there.
In most American schools, parents and children adapt to serve the school rather than the school accommodating the parent and child. There needs to be a turn-around in our school education to train teachers and administrations to meet the needs of our multicultural citizens. Teacher education classes at the universities show a cultural bias towards the upper socioeconomic family or middle- class family. This is not to say that there are no multicultural classes available. The classes tend to link cultural stereotypical fun activities as “multicultural”. For example, tacos for South American friends, or Cinco de Mayo which is not truly a decisive historical event for Latin Americans. How do we view Martin Luther King? We have sanitized his message to his Dream. Little do students know how Dr. King opposed the Vietnam War. How he attacked our capitalistic society which left minorities out of the mainstream “dream,” of owning a house, wealth and promotion.
Many teachers are beginning to look at their schools, their school populations and ways to promote professionalism into the classroom by recognizing the cultural needs of the community and ways to bring “voices” into the school. They need a way to change the curriculum to provide a voice to different cultures that are relevant and fit into the community in which they teach.
A teacher’s knowledge when interacting with students is not known nor is it written about in academic journals. What a teacher learns from working in a multicultural classroom is intuitive. A teacher changes curricula to meet the needs of the students, if possible. The school district dictates how a teacher must interact with her students. The curricula that a school district decides should be followed is based on academic analysis of those who are out of touch with the students and classroom.
One of the main consequences of not recognizing the child’s cultural heritage is a division between the child and the parent as well as alienation from the school. All children want to belong to be a member of a group. They begin to develop their own friends and turn away from family ideals. The children, wanting approval, are beginning to join groups that may not be in their best interests but give them a sense of identity and acceptance. This is becoming so prevalent that educators as well as districts must begin to draw the children back into the mainstream of approval by encouraging a respect for their cultural beliefs.
We must have teachers that are aware of racial bias and districts that include all parents regardless of language. For example, Los Angeles Unified School is predominately Hispanic and most schools have a plethora of Spanish speaking teachers and aides. An influx of Southeast Asians arrived and in some areas of Los Angeles, the district was able to hire Cambodian and Vietnamese translators. The cut backs in education have made it virtually impossible to keep up with the number of students enrolled and the necessary tools to engage them.
The question of meeting the needs of all our students must be reevaluated. Instead of plopping a student in a classroom, perhaps the teacher should be warned. If the teacher is informed, research on the student’s culture would help the student to adapt to the classroom setting. The teacher would take time to prepare the students of the child coming in and some cultural differences that could be taught to the students to help them accept the student.
The school district should include teachers in the creation of a multicultural classroom. The teachers are essential in helping students feel comfortable and welcome into a different environment.