10 Chapters
Medium 9781935542018

Ten Building Community in Diverse Classrooms

Ricardo L. Garcia Solution Tree Press ePub

Diversity is a fact of life. Community is not. It must be envisioned, nurtured, and fostered to thrive. Schools are called upon to assist families in rearing children to live well. Bringing up children to live successfully in the greater community has been a shared responsibility for a very long time. More than a hundred years ago, Jane Addams wrote in Democracy and Social Ethics:

The democratic ideal demands of the school that it shall give the child’s own experience a social value; that it shall teach him to direct his activities and adjust them to those of other people. (1907, p. 180)

The adage “It takes a village to raise a child” rings true. In fact, schools are like village commons, the place in communal living where individuals pull together for the development of the self in conjunction with others. Each honors the rights of others so that others will honor hers or his. This is an old ideal, a social contract inherent in e pluribus unum.

In prior chapters, I focused on the intellectual development of students via instruction guided by three universal goals: (1) learning autonomy, (2) intellectual effectiveness, and (3) cultural efficacy. I examine those goals again in this chapter through the lens of socialization (social development), which is mainly “caught” rather than taught in daily classroom and school interactions. First, I examine the relationship between socialization and diversity; then I discuss the characteristics fundamental to a community, from which I make inferences for building community in the classroom. I conclude with a discussion of the school as a village commons.

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Medium 9781935542018

One What Is an American?

Ricardo L. Garcia Solution Tree Press ePub

Days used to amble by slowly in Colfax, Nebraska. Settled in 1901 by German refugees from Russia, the small town served surrounding farms for years, but with the industrialization of agriculture and decline of subsistence farming, families moved away. Colfax tottered on the verge of extinction until the Nebraska Meat Packing Corporation (NMP) established a plant there in 2001.

Then Colfax flourished. Every nook and cranny bustled. Cracking sidewalks and empty streets were suddenly full of people coming and going on sundry errands. Abandoned stores reopened, the weathered boards of shuttered display windows were removed, and new signs were painted, such as Carnicería, Tienda la Variedas, and Producios de Mexico y Centro America.

The new merchants and customers came from Mexico and Honduras, speaking Spanish and filling the schools with their children. Overnight, a sleepy, dying German American town transformed into a vibrant community—except now Spanish rather than German is heard on the sidewalks, in stores, the library, schools, and churches.

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Nine Developing Curricula for Diversity

Ricardo L. Garcia Solution Tree Press ePub

Let us take up curricula that reflect diversity. The previous chapter explains broad-based strategies, but not the method for organizing specific content. Ideally, diverse materials, experiences, and activities permeate the teacher’s entire curriculum to assist students in learning about the self and the other. This chapter describes the following steps for building a unique curriculum rich with diverse experiences and activities:

 Understanding how knowledge is constructed

 Teaching about culture

 Using ethnic studies

 Selecting curriculum materials

 Fostering student-created curricula

 Involving parents and others in the curriculum

First, let’s define what is meant by curriculum.

A classroom is defined by teacher and student interactions. The qualities of these interactions are forged by the teacher’s academic leadership through a program of study (defined by state and school district curriculum guides) to which he or she has given a unique and personal twist. The unique touch is the teacher—what he or she teaches beyond academic standards and curriculum guides.

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Two Diversity in a Free Society

Ricardo L. Garcia Solution Tree Press ePub

We return to Veronica and her question, “What is an American?” The legal answer is easy. The philosophical answer is more difficult because it goes to state of mind, feelings, and allegiance. Those allowed to enter the United States serve to define the American character and will influence what the nation becomes. New arrivals bring their cultures and languages and attempt to preserve the best of their own while adopting the best the United States has to offer. In this chapter, we continue to examine American society by analyzing how 20th century immigration shaped the United States. We then examine the intersection of human diversity and national unity, religious diversity, and their impact on the development of the American educational system.

Despite the 20th century shift toward inclusion described in the last chapter, ambivalence toward immigrants persists in subtle and not-so-subtle forms (Murillo, 2002). Some cities create ordinances that forbid landlords to rent to undocumented individuals; elsewhere, illegal vigilante patrols round up people crossing the desert along the Mexican and American borders. This ambivalence is symptomatic of concern about what it means to be an American and who should be considered American.

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Four Honoring Culture and Self-Identity

Ricardo L. Garcia Solution Tree Press ePub

As students pass through classrooms each year, teachers have a limited amount of time to learn their names, discover who they are, and ideally, teach them something of value. Given the immense diversity of students and cultures, the task of truly understanding each and every student’s culture is daunting, much less the unique characteristics of each student beyond culture. How, then, can teachers hope to identify and understand the diversity issues that arise in the teaching of students from many backgrounds? Moreover, having made these necessary discoveries, how can teachers help their diverse students understand similar issues as they make their way in the world?

To answer these questions I propose two essential attitudes for teachers. First, it is important for teachers to acknowledge—and work to understand—manifestations of human difference. Second, as part of such acknowledgment, teachers must know themselves well and come to terms with their attitudes toward human differences, recognizing their preferences, biases, and prejudices. To these ends, this chapter provides a nuanced explanation of human diversity in terms of culture and self-identity regarding issues such as race and ethnicity; sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation; English proficiency; and learning style preferences.

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