Children Bring Their Own Cultural Selves Into the Classroom
Some children are very comfortable waiting to speak until they are called upon, whereas other children are accustomed to yelling out questions. Some children enjoy reading while an adult (or peer) reads out loud, while other children engage in some type of physical movement when reading, such as pacing throughout the room. What is critically important to recognize is that no matter how different (or possibly upsetting) a communication style or mode of learning may be for you all children should be made to feel that their authentic cultural selves belong. Their future success in school and life profoundly relies on if and how their cultural selves, their very identities, are honored, or disrespected, in the classroom and society.
Review the following scenario about Toni and respond to the following prompts:
Toni is a four-year-old girl attending an all-day preschool. All of her preschool teachers and the Site Supervisor refer to Toni as a “force of nature” while simultaneously smiling nervously and shaking their head in dismay. Toni has been sent home more than any other child in the center for not following instructions and not listening to her teachers.
When Toni enters the preschool, whether others are engaged in an activity or talking with the teacher, Toni greets each and every person in a similar way. She begins her greeting by saying “Good morning” followed by the person’s first name and a novel rhyme or rap that incorporates their name, the day, and an article of clothing they are currently wearing. This often interrupts the flow of the morning routine, especially when she arrives late. She greets everyone in the preschool before starting her first activity. During circle time, Toni is continually in motion, and walks around the community circle, and at times throughout the center while humming the entire time. Since her humming seems to distract some children, the teachers have allowed her to walk, but they have all mentioned they find it distracting. When asked questions about the circle time story that has been read by her teachers, Toni always replies with the correct answers. When asked about Toni’s progress in the classroom, one of the teachers, who work with her the most, mentioned Toni is a “very bright girl, but needs to learn how to control her outbursts and sit quietly.” She added, “I am fairly certain she has Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
At lunch time, Toni regularly counts how many of her peers are present for lunch, and similar to her morning greets creates rhymes and raps that incorporate her peers’ names, what they are eating, and something they did prior to lunch. After lunch she is regularly singing songs in a language she refers to as “Toni-Italiano,” which is in fact a mixture of German, Spanish, and Italian words. Her peers who giggle and bang on the tables as she is singing seem to enjoy the lunchtime rap and post-lunch song. The teachers, however, have continually asked her to sit quietly and wait for her meal or to stop bothering her peers. She rarely complies to their requests.
Post in response to the following prompts, using a strengths-based approach:
- An analysis of Toni’s communication styles, i.e., consider how she seems to communicate and how these styles might serve as a strength.
- An analysis of Toni’s modes of learning. Consider how she seems to learn best and how these ways of learning might serve as a strength.
- How Toni might be viewed in a classroom where she is expected to sit in a chair, raise her hand, and remain quiet.
- How an educator might reconfigure her or his classroom/interactions/attitudes to honor and build on Toni’s strengths.