The Multicultural Landscape of the Classroom
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This post was written by Nicole Gallagher, M.Ed.
“Peace requires everyone to be in the circle – wholeness, inclusion.”Isabel Allende
Our classrooms are a reflection of our country’s multicultural landscape. Today we have students from such a wide array of cultures in our inclusive classrooms. The students speak more languages than I can even imagine. Sometimes this can pose quite a challenge in a class that is taught primarily in English. The only assistance is often what is provided by fellow bilingual students in class. All of my students are bombarded with language in a multitude of formats each day. They receive information orally, in print and through multi-media. When a child speaks a different native language, is trying to learn a new secondary language, and has a learning disability, understanding all of the information presented by the teacher is often difficult. It is important that my students feel a sense of belonging in my classroom and if they need help anyone not just the teacher can provide that assistance. Even if that means that they just visually shadow another student until they feel comfortable enough to begin participating on his or her own.
In addition, there are an unbalanced number of males and females that qualify to receive special education services. This can cause a class to have a larger percentage of one gender over another. It is important that each gender receives equal support by the teacher in the classroom. Even in classes that are more balanced, I strive to make all my students feel confident to contribute to the classroom discussions and activities. Sometimes I find that the girls tend to volunteer answers more in language arts and the boys more in social studies. I encourage all my students by showing them they can be successful in anything they put their mind to. As the year progresses I often find this makes the biggest difference in boys and their fiction writing. In the beginning of the year, most boys try to play it safe and write what they think will help them to get a good grade or what they have been told are acceptable topics for boys to write about in school. Poetry is often the unit that helps them to come out of their formerly imposed boundaries. They realize that poetry allows them to be more open with their topics and then they feel more comfortable and begin to place those that new found confidence into narrative writing as well. I am able to see them truly blossom as writers due to their newfound passion.
Although having such a variety of cultures and needs in my classroom can be overwhelming to the teacher, more often it is rewarding to see how the students work together to help each other grow despite their differences.