Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "The secret of education is respecting the pupil." This quote expresses my hopes and dreams in a multicultural setting. My action plan will incorporate this quote as the base for my teaching career. Teaching from a multicultural perspective is respecting the students lives and they in turn learn to respect the different cultures in their world. The acceptance of a pluralistic society can eradicate cultural egocentrism for the teacher as well as for the students. The task before me is to "transform" the students’ way of thinking, making them responsive to an egalitarian, democratic mindset. As my plan of action I have chosen to utilize "Kaleidoscope’s" approach to multicultural education so as to achieve "Level 3 and 4" on James Banks’ multicultural perspective (Level 3 is the "transformation" and level 4 is "action").
1. Defining goals
2. Exploring one’s own culture and the cultures of the students
4. Preparing the classroom environment
3. Understanding children’s development from a multicultural perspective
5. Understanding first and second languagedevelopment
6. Planning andcarrying out learning activities and classroom teaching environment strategies
7. Promoting parents as partners
8. Understandingprogram evaluation and student assessment
9. Advocating for children
Both "Kaleidoscope’s" approach and James Banks’ Levels will interconnect with one another and evolve around one another within this action plan. It is an action plan that will rely heavily on the knowledge students bring into the classroom and work towards incorporating their knowledge and different cultures into the existing curriculum. This is done so that the students can become social activists. They learn that they have a voice and act out against the injustices in the world. I must take into account that to implement such an action plan will constitute a lot of work and dedication but it is feasible. This plan can work in a monolingual as well as a bilingual setting but for the purpose of this action plan I will explain how it can be utilized for a bilingual setting since Kaleidoscope’s approach takes into account L1 and L2 development.
The multicultural bilingual classroom should reflect the students’ lives and their home language. In a bilingual classroom the students’ first language is utilized, encouraged and valued. It is common for some students to feel inadequate because of their lack of English and what can be promoted and celebrated is the fact that their first language is as useful, as beautiful, and as important as the majority language (English). This is not to say that English will take a backseat to the students’ native language but that the use of both languages is implemented equally. The transfer of skills learned in one language transfer to the second language (J. Cummins). The importance of any form of education is that the student understands the content found therein. Content is gained if the student comprehends the subject being taught. The content that is learned in L1 is decoded and translates into the second language that is being acquired by the students (Cummins).
The classroom environment can be enhanced and renovated by the use of visuals in two languages. Students’ work in both languages has to be displayed around the room and wherever possible the students should decorate the room so that they can take ownership of their environment. Learning center signs, sitting charts, bulletin boards can be made by the students. The use of computers can be an aid the students. They can utilize computers to make classroom signs by learning to use graphics and clip art programs. The participation level of the students in the classroom is supported by the constant reinforcement of community. This is "our" classroom, "our" space, "our" place of exploration and development. The "I" (the individual) is not enforced; the "we" has to be incorporated and encouraged in every activity to promote a democratic classroom setting.
The goal of the action plan is to encourage respect from and for all the students in the classroom. It is through the respect of oneself and of others that the students will begin to take their experiences out into the world. The children in the classroom will have equal opportunities to study about each other’s cultures and those of others outside of their classroom. It is important to stress group work. It is through cooperation that the students will prevail over the alienation often felt by students in a bilingual classroom. The monolingual students and at times the administration itself often look down upon bilingual students. Children in a bilingual setting are often categorized as minorities and this leads to disempowerment. According to Jim Cummins "minority students are disempowered educationally in very much the same way that their communities are disempowered by interactions with societal institutions" (J. Cummins, 1989). Therefore, the teacher has to incorporate the children’s cultures into the curriculum to empower and encourage the students. The gathering of students’ background information can aid the teacher in identifying the needs of the children and enhance the classroom experience. By learning about their own cultures, the teacher raises the self-esteem of the students in the classroom and validates them as productive members of their classroom and communities.
Communication is a key aspect of this action plan. Every voice in the classroom should be heard. The students must view their classroom as a forum where their native language, issues of race, color, and gender are expressed so as to build a community that lives by the creed "one for all and all for one". The classroom setting should be one that addresses issues of discrimination and confronts these issues while promoting an anti-racist environment (S. Nieto). To open the lines of communication students will work in cooperative groups that reflect different learning abilities so that they can learn from each other. To build these learning groups a sense of community must be in place. The students must view themselves as a small segment of society, a microcosm, which reflects the pluralistic society outside of the classroom.
One way that can help the bilingual students feel a sense of belonging (in a system that sometimes looks down upon them) is if the teacher enlists the help of monolingual teachers. Both the bilingual and monolingual teachers can work in partnership to build thematic units where the bilingual and monolingual students engage in collaborative efforts to achieve a common goal. These two-way exchanges help both groups of students dispel prejudices they may have against one another. Working together leads to the understanding that although they may be different from one another, have different cultural backgrounds and beliefs, they have a lot of similarities they never knew existed. Furthermore, these collaborative efforts help the bilingual students with their second language acquisition. Action starts in the heart of the teacher and lives on through the students. It is through constant reflection of the world in and out of the classroom that change (transformation) takes place. A teacher has to find allies within the school that can help him/her achieve his/her goals for the students in the classroom.
In a multicultural setting every avenue of study can be explored from a different viewpoint so that the students’ can appreciate the diversity the world has to offer. Through the continual study of prominent figures within the students’ cultures as well as prominent figures from the culture of "power" the students can discuss differences and similarities. Most bilingual programs lack resources that can enable students to view the world from different perspectives. The teacher has to provide the information lacking in the classroom. The development of an extensive multicultural library is a monumental objective (to all teachers) because most of the information found in textbooks provided by the educational department is from an Anglo European perspective (DeGaetano). The teacher has to find and incorporate other sources of information and this can be done through the use of the Internet and books written by different countries and cultures. All points of view should be explored so as to reaffirm diversity. The learning process is influenced by the information provided by the teacher and the students in a multicultural classroom. Taken into account that culture is learned and is continuously changing (DeGaetano, 2002) the teacher in a multicultural setting has to believe that she/he can change the students’ preconceived notions and "transform" the students’ lives and vice versa.
Help is needed to implement a multicultural approach in the classroom. It is not only from the teachers and the administration but also from the parents and members of the community. They must be looked upon as resources that can aid the children’s development. Parents are an invaluable source of information and with their help the children’s lives and cultures can be enhanced. Invite parents into the classroom; ask them to do read-aloud (if the parent can not read have them tell anecdotes, stories of interest), to help with activities, to help with decorations and to provide students with additional help in and out of the classroom. The teacher cannot do it alone. The teacher must use the community and the parents to boost the moral of the students. The parents cannot be isolated they must be incorporated. The children’s homes, their community, their cultures are included in the curriculum and this leads to their empowerment and "transformation. Cohesion within a classroom starts with baby steps. Little by little the teacher and the students can and will find their footing. This can be achieved through the realization that the primary caretakers should have a say in the educational development of the children. However, most parents of bilingual students feel they cannot help due to language barriers. This is why a bilingual teacher must be able to communicate in the parents’ native language or find the support needed to be able to do so. A positive approach and sincere communication alleviates tension between teachers and the primary caretakers. The parents, themselves must realize that they are teachers in their own right. To implement a multicultural approach everyone in the children’s lives has to find it in their hearts to give it the time and the effort it deserves. It is a continual, ever changing, ever developing approach that requires dedication. As a multicultural teacher one must find support, nurture it and maintain it.
Another point of consideration is the assessment of LEP students. The placement assessments given to LEP students cannot become a crutch to rely upon when a teacher encounters a child. These tests can be viewed as base assessments from which one can assess the child personally and come to one’s own realization of a child’s potential. These tests focus "on what students cannot do rather than on what they are able to do and appear to be about ready to master" (Davies and McKeon, 1999). The teacher in a bilingual classroom can incorporate the use of portfolios, students writing journals to ascertain the progress of the students in his/her classroom. There is also the use of students’ self-assessments as a tool to incorporate the students in their own progress. Give the students a questionnaire (at the beginning of the year) where they can answer for themselves about their abilities and knowledge base, and then give that same questionnaire once again at the end of the school year (Michelle Montas). The students will be able to see for themselves, their own progress and accomplishments. They take ownership over their own learning when they realize how much they have achieved.
The teacher in a multicultural bilingual setting has to promote social justice. To do this a teacher has to advocate for his/her beliefs about multicultural education. Multicultural education is often viewed as education without foundation since it has such a broad perspective. This broad perspective is what makes multicultural education efficient and necessary. To hold as a true premise "that all men (women) are created equal", we must be able to learn from all perspectives. If we as members of this society are to truly hold to this premise we have to come to the understanding that we are respected, we matter, and our lives are not to be dictated to by the "power" structure. Multicultural education is action and to act, the teacher and the students must first learn to affirm themselves.
This action plan has, as is basis, the respect of the students. It is constant reflection of the world in which the students and the teacher live. It is able to manipulate and utilize the resources that can give the students different perspectives in all areas of study. As stated earlier multicultural education starts at the heart of the teacher. However the help of others is needed to implement a multicultural approach. Parents and the communities must be looked upon as assets not hindrances. I believe in Sonia Nieto’s description of multicultural education, "it challenges and rejects racism and other forms of discrimination in schools and society and accepts and affirms the pluralism that students, their communities, and teachers represent" (S. Nieto, 1992). Students are the foundation of their own education; the teacher is there to help build the structure. Teachers can "transform" through social action and the belief in equity for all humans. The approach starts at the heart of the teacher but the students are the catalyst that can make multicultural education work. Their lives and cultures need to be respected and celebrated.