Ways for teachers to change a a stereotype situation into something teachable

Stereotyping is a term that became popular with psychiatrists during the 19th century. It is a type of repetitive and persistent behaviour, casting a person in preset moulds devoid of individuality. It is an offensive, risky and unhealthy practice that gives rise to tense situations involving prejudices, racism and ethnic discrimination.

Stereotyping arises from a lack of discernment, a lack of awareness about another’s cultural values, misinformation of facts about people from other races or cultures, a generalization that all communities other than one’s own are inferior and not worth the attention for credit and a generalization that other communities are all alike. Stereotyping also leads to scapegoating which is holding a particular person or group responsible for all of the problems in a community.

The classroom is one place where a group of children from varying backgrounds come together to work and learn. Ethnic differences are bound to happen. For instance, both, the Unites States and India have this same feature where there is an apt scene for unity in diversity. The United States have people from various nations speaking various languages and dialects, and India has people from many states, each state in India with a language of its own, especially in South India.

When there is a tense stereotype situation in a class the teacher has the opportunity to either make a difference by acting on it or to simply ignore the situation. If the teacher is to take a stand against tense stereotyping in class as he or she should, here is a list of things that can be considered. This is mainly for students in high school and involves their interaction with one another and their individual feedback.

Values education

The teacher should get the attention of the class for a session of values education. Value education is to teach the group of children basic values like respect for one another. Self awareness is part of this session and only once self awareness is taught can awareness of others set in.

Discuss stereotyping

There are times when children are not familiar with the term stereotyping but unconsciously exhibit stereotyping behaviour, a bullying attitude and an attempt to copy peers or seniors. This can result in tense community situations that many times also leave the scenes of the class room. The teacher has to make time for discussing the issues of stereotyping and all the terms that contribute to stereotyping, like ‘stereotype, discrimination, prejudice, assumptions, generalization and scapegoating.’

Follow a lesson sequence

A lesson or session on stereotyping has to be in a structured format like any other subject that is handled by the teacher. The lesson has to be pre-planned with teaching aids if necessary. It has to follow a definite sequence for best results. The sequence is as follows:

  • Aim of the class & Vocabulary or definition of terms to be used
  • Discuss how the factors of stereotyping are harmful and unethical
  • Identify strategies for conflicts are prejudice-related

Group discussions

Planned group discussions are one of the most effective methods to turn a tense stereotype class session into one of deep educational value. The children should be divided into groups and each group could either represent a particular community while each child in that group may be presented with a scenario for discussion, turn by turn. This not only brings about sharing of opinions but also leads to realization of facts and a study of various cultures.

It is vital that the class regroup after a group discussion to assimilate and share important points that have been brought up during the discussion, and the teacher is to seize this opportunity to also pose questions to the class. For example, if the topic for discussion by the class was on Asians with each group representing various Asian countries, the questions asked could be about any of these countries and their cultural attributes.

Discuss questions such as:

  • What in the opinion of the group is the most effective way to deal with a case of racial crisis?
  • What is the least effective way to deal with the same crisis?
  • Did any of these people use violence as a form of retaliation or was there a chance for open discussions between the parties?
  • Have you been in a similar scenario before? If yes, how did you handle it? If not, what would you do?

Present out-of-class projects

Teachers should give students assignments to probably submit information about different cultures based on specific details asked for. It might be on a particular community in Shangai, China, or the Aborigines of Australia. Whatever the race of people in question, assignments should be done based on researched facts which help students to broaden their mental horizons and break the barriers of narrow-mindedness.

Discuss ways to combat stereotyping

Before the class wraps up with a recap, it is important that everyone discusses ways to combat stereotyping. Some of the suggestions are:

  • Respect for one another irrespective of who he or she is
  • Accept racial and cultural differences
  • Respect for one another should begin with members within the class
  • Interact with members of another community
  • Make time for group members of other communities
  • Learn, research, read and attend workshops that portray another’s culture
  • Always place yourself as a victim when stereotyping another. How would you feel?
  • Try to put yourself in another’s shoes
  • Make an effort to correct misinformation

For many children, the teacher is always right. This is stereotyping, but the teacher has the opportunity to turn this attribute into a positive result. Teachers can help build a child’s thinking constructively into breaking barriers of discrimination and hatred between communities, and all this by interacting with children in a class room.