Though my face is the face of the dominant culture, I have had different cultural experiences. With a mother who was born and raised outside of the United States, from the first moment I can remember, she challenged my sisters and I to dissociate ourselves from the mentalities of dominance and superiority that can be engrained in the Caucasians in this country. I attended a very diverse Elementary and Middle school that was effective at tackling big questions of diversity and encouraging us to see the beauty in every culture. As an ESL minor, I have spent many classes poring over books like We Can't Teach What We Don't Know: White Teachers, Multiracial Students by Gary Howard and Tongue-Tied: The Lives of Multilingual Students in Public Education edited by Otto Santa Ana. Multicultural education is one of my greatest passions, and quite possibly lies at the very core of why I feel called to teach.
So this chapter served it's purpose in reminding me what is most important to me as an educator. While I read, it hit me that making the choice to be a culturally competent teacher and facilitator of multicultural classroom management will be the greatest and hardest thing I may ever do. It is a journey that requires dedication, commitment, and constant growth. In this chapter and in the book by Howard listed above, I learned that so much of the journey involves knowing myself and my students. I love the ideas suggested like talking to parents as experts to learn about culture and doing family interviews.
Something that I encountered in the Santa Ana text above and was reenforced in this chapter of Schmidt was that this choice is about more than just being culturally competent or doing the right thing. It's about the safety, sanity and affirmation of the students in my classroom. When the educational system does "school" wrong, we tear down students of other languages and cultures, push them towards cultural conformity and ultimately strip them of their cultural identities.
I walk away from reading this chapter refreshed and feeling empowered to facilitate change. I actually have purchased two of the books mentioned in this section (Teacher by Sylvia Ashton-Warner and There Are No Shortcuts by Rafe Esquith) to promote my growth as an educator. The biggest challenge right now is being a student teacher and feeling like I can't do everything I want to because it is technically not my classroom. Yet there are still things I can do. I can greet each student by name, I can work towards including all students in discussion, I can be more conscious of wait time, I can tie the curriculum to student experiences (pages 84-85). This is something that I hope to make serious progress in this semester.