Children's identity and self-respect are related to how others treat them, and ultimately to their future success. Therefore, school personnel need to promote a safe, humane environment where inclusiveness, justice and an appreciation of individual differences are evident.
by Leah Davies, M.Ed. www.kellybear.com
Regular contributor to the Gazette
January 1, 2009
Children's identity and self-respect are related to how others treat them, and ultimately to their future success. Therefore, school personnel need to promote a safe, humane environment where inclusiveness, justice and an appreciation of individual differences are evident. When staff are respectful toward students no matter what their gender, social class, race, nationality, religion, disability or cultural background, children will follow their example.
How can administrators and staff help children value diversity?
Hold anti-bias, diversity training workshops or support groups for all personnel. Include sensitivity awareness of racial and cultural differences present in your school. Invite community members representing various groups to speak about their customs and/or concerns. Require staff to speak and act in an unbiased manner.
Develop a clear "School Standard" that staff can support and enforce. For example:
Every child is unique and has value.
Every child will be treated with respect and caring.
Every child can learn.
Everyone in our school has the responsibility to stand against prejudice and injustice.
Our school is a peaceful place where bigotry is not tolerated.
Decide which age-appropriate consequences will result from various student infractions. Depending on the student's age, some suggestions are:
Write a paper on another culture.
Meet after school with a staff member and a diverse group of students to discuss differences and commonalities, and/or to work on a project together such as beautification of the school.
Use punishment such as detention or suspension.
Make contact with a parent, school counselor, principal, or law enforcement officer.
Inform the student body that harassment of any kind against other students or staff will be dealt with swiftly and firmly. Follow through with action.
Encourage peaceful student interaction and cooperation. Institute a peer mediation program that trains children to mediate conflict among their peers.
Provide a safe, consistent classroom atmosphere where children's strengths are accentuated and their differences are respected. Establish a climate where children feel free to share their thoughts and feelings. Teach each child to stand up for him/herself, and to uphold the rights of every other child.
Use multiethnic, culturally-sensitive materials, curricula and textbooks whenever possible. If biased materials such as old history books must be used, ask the children in what ways they present a prejudiced view. Include equitable concepts as an integral part of daily classroom life.
Leah Davies received her Master's Degree from the Department of Counseling and Counseling Psychology, Auburn University. She has been dedicated to the well-being of children for 44 years as a certified teacher, counselor, prevention specialist, parent, and grandparent. Her professional experience includes teaching, counseling, consulting, instructing at Auburn University, and directing educational and prevention services at a mental health agency.
Besides the Kelly Bear materials, Leah has written articles that have appeared in The American School Counseling Association Counselor, The School Counselor, Elementary School Guidance and Counseling Journal, Early Childhood News, and National Head Start Association Journal. She has presented workshops at the following national professional meetings: American School Counselor Association; Association for Childhood Education International; National Association for the Education of Young Children; National Child Care Association; National Head Start Association; National School-Age Child Care Alliance Conference.