Posts Tagged 'multicultural competency'

Incorporating Multiculturalism in the Classroom around the Holidays

xmas treeBy Nick Rocha – Teaching during the winter months can often inspire teachers to integrate Christmas symbols and topics into their classroom activities. The holiday season is a wonderful time to reflect on the previous year, spend time with friends and family, and show compassion to the less fortunate. But integrating Christmas traditions and practices into the curriculum can alienate students who do not share a similar faith or cannot afford presents under the tree. How can teachers instill the fundamental principles of Christmas, such as compassion and generosity, without isolating students?

The Christmas season and consumerism has been deeply connected. Many companies and industries advertise holiday deals and reinforce the idea that Christmas gifts should be something physical and material in nature. Telling students that they will be rewarded with physical goods for being “good” around Christmas time also reinforces that idea. Asking students specifically what they want for Christmas can bring about disappointment if their families cannot afford presents for the holidays.

According to the Child Defense Fund, more than one out of five children live in poverty, and the proportion increases to one out of four for children below the age of six. One method that teachers can utilize in the classroom is to ask students about what they are grateful for and focus on giving instead of receiving. This allows students to reflect and to appreciate the goodness that is around them without feeling disappointed or feel like they are in a contest with their peers.

The Christmas season can also bring about ethnocentrism. “The intensity of the Christmas curriculum in non-religiously affiliated schools and centers isolates children of minority faiths, while contributing to the development of ethnocentrism in majority children” (Schlachter, 1986). Highlighting Christmas traditions and symbols without highlighting other religious practices and holidays can advocate Christianity as superior over other religions. Teachers should appreciate multiculturalism and note that some students do not celebrate Christmas or have other religious celebrations throughout the year. Educators should allow students to be open about their religion and integrate other religious symbols and festivities (besides Christmas) into the curriculum so that no student feels left out.

Educators need to appreciate multicultural diversity in their classrooms and to take into consideration the socioeconomic status of each student. Christmas is a time to appreciate what we have and to teach students how to be compassionate and generous. Celebrating other religions and allowing students to explore their spirituality will bring about cultural appreciation and a greater understanding of diversity within the classroom.

The Impact of Service Learning on White Attitudes

Untitled-1logoBy Nick Rocha – Service learning programs have been a growing trend among institutes of higher education.  Many universities and colleges provide week-long or semester-long programs that are designed to encourage students to interact with other students and communities.  “The general philosophy is to encourage a mutually beneficial partnership between students and a community group, with students providing needed services to a community that in turn provides rich professional and personal learning opportunities for students” (National and Community Service Trust Act, 1993).  How might service-learning, specifically multicultural service-learning, affect the racial attitudes of White, middle-class students?

There has been a great deal of research that highlights the value of multicultural service-learning.  According to Guilfoile and Ryan of the Education Commission of the States, “a growing body of research shows that students engaged in high-quality service-learning learn to collaborate, think critically, and problem solve” (2013).  In addition, service-learning can challenge stereotypes, reducing student ignorance, intolerance, prejudice and modern racism.  In contrast, “critics have expressed skepticism about bringing White middle-class students to low-income communities of color, especially when benefits to the community are unclear” (Reardon, 1998).  White students often benefit from feelings of self-worth, but they often view themselves as the “advantaged providing a service to the disadvantaged [and] this may perpetuate students’ negative stereotypes of community members” (Hess, Lanig, and Vaughan 2007).  This deficit-oriented approach “may contribute little to their intellectual and practical understanding of social justice and racial inequality” (Reardon, 1994).  What aspects of service-learning influence whether or not White, middle-class students’ attitudes perpetuate negative stereotypes or strengthen a higher intercultural sensitivity towards other communities?

Multicultural service-learning programs often consist of five themes: Investigation, Preparation, Action, Reflection, and Demonstration (Kaye and Connolly 2010).  The investigation involves the collection of student interests and a social analysis of the issue being addressed.  Preparation involves the continuation of knowledge of the issue and the organization of the service-learning objectives.  The Investigation and Preparation stages are critical for the development of White student attitudes regarding disadvantaged communities and racial stereotypes.  Even though White middle-class students are reluctant to talk about race for fear of appearing racist, discussing structural racism and White privilege prior to the Action stage of service-learning helps to make power relations visible and critical reflection on racial attitudes possible (Green, 2003).  Additional research will needed to be conducted regarding student multicultural learning outcomes through service-learning, but it would seem that service-learning on its own merit does not positively influence White students’ racial attitudes (Houshmand et.al 2014).  Service-learning should provide a significant amount of background knowledge regarding power relations, White privilege, and racial colorblindness in order to encourage students to critically reflect on their service experience and their social status.

Cultural Competence: Embracing Each Student as an Individual

bd08832_By Sabrina Bartels – For the past two weeks, my husband and I have been exploring Europe, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells in Paris, Barcelona, and Rome. We have loved every minute of it, especially the food. After tasting authentic pizza here in Rome, I am not sure I will ever look at frozen pizza the same way again …

As you can imagine, Europe is very different from the States. For me, one of the biggest changes I had to adapt to was the cultural differences in restaurants. In all of the cities we went to, we never automatically received the bill for our food. Instead, we had to ask for it. Over here, it is considered incredibly rude if the waiter drops the bill off at the table without the patron requesting it. We also had to get used to the times when restaurants would serve lunch and dinner; in Barcelona, lunch is frequently served at two in the afternoon, with dinner starting around eight or nine at night. And meals are LONG. You could be at the restaurant for two or three hours for dinner, which is considered perfectly normal. Life is a little slower.

During our first few restaurant encounters, I got antsy. Why weren’t people giving us our bill? Why did it take so long? And why did people eat so late? But after a little bit, I began to enjoy the routine of having a leisurely meal.

Every year, we have students come to us with their own ideas of what they expect with school, what they expect at home, and how things work in general. Some families view education as a right, while some see it as an opportunity. Some students have been taught to stand up for their family honor by fighting; some students have been taught to use their words to stand up for themselves. Some students parrot phrases that they believe are flattering, when they may be considered degrading by other people. Some students may seem consistently disrespectful, but they are only repeating what they hear in their community or in their home.

As a school, we need to ensure that we are culturally competent, taking into account the fact that all of our students come from different walks of life. There are no two students who are raised in the exact same manner, and every student enters the school building with a unique personality and way of seeing things. We need to be able to cater to this individuality by ensuring that each student knows he or she is loved and cared for because of who they are. We also need to make sure that we are using diverse ways of teaching our students; some students can patiently sit through a 40 minute lesson, while other students may need more hands-on activities.

For me as a counselor, it comes down to making sure that I am in-tune with my students’ needs, and respond accordingly. I have many students who have been taught to fight for their family and their family’s honor. And while I understand where they are coming from, I work with them to understand that fighting is not always an option. Sometimes it works. Sometimes, they don’t listen. But I think that by my acknowledging that this is a way of life for them, they realize that I am not “out to get them.” Instead, they see that I really am trying to help them out.

As the sun begins to set on our summer vacation (where in the world did it go?) I hope you find the time to think about your students and how you can embrace each of their differences!

My Experiences with Diversity

diversityBy Christie Hyland — Diversity is a big topic in mental health today.

How can a therapist best serve clients of diverse backgrounds? Developing multicultural competency is an important part of being an effective counselor, so I thought I would explore my own experiences with diversity.

My hometown, where I spent the first 18 years of my life, has a population of around 3,000 people. In 2010, the population was about 86% white, 10% Native American, and the remaining 4% black, Asian, or multiracial.

Despite my town’s homogeneous population, I grew up embracing diversity and was interested in learning about different cultures. I can remember when this interest likely first emerged. I was in second grade. My teacher read a story about how America was a melting pot of people of many different races, and that this was something to embrace. We could all learn from each other’s differences, and that despite our differences, we all had many similarities. However, I soon learned that differences weren’t always embraced.

As I got older, I learned that people who looked differently, lived differently, and loved differently were often treated unfairly. When I learned about the Civil War in fourth grade, I was appalled that slavery existed in the Land of the Free. All men are created equal, so why not black men? Senior year, I learned that women are not guaranteed equal rights as men under the Constitution. This bit of knowledge came while researching for a presentation I gave on women’s rights. I almost changed my presentation topic because I feared I might receive backlash from my male classmates for being a feminist. I learned about the pilgrims and the Indians as early as kindergarten. But in college, I learned that the warm and welcoming Indians faced centuries of atrocities, including genocide, boarding schools, and forced sterilization. I found contradictions in what I was taught in school. I learned that our country that prided itself on fairness and equality had a long history of injustice.

Every injustice I learned about stirred feelings of anger, sadness, and empathy for those affected. My feelings and knowledge fuel a passion for helping others who were mistreated because of their differences. I recognize the importance of living in a diverse society. I think living and learning from those who are different from us, whether it be the color of their skin, the God they pray to, the amount of money they make, or the language they sing in, is incredibly valuable.


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