In an effort to set up a classroom environment of diversity, I tried to be mindful of materials I included in each center. While setting up the home dramatic play center, I tried to be aware of including foods from various cultures, dolls of varying of races, family book depicting a variety of cultures and races, and so on. I thought I had done a good job of reducing any chance a student would feel invisible or oppressed. For the most part, I think I accomplished my goal.
However, one day I observed a play scene with a few children that concerned me. There are four dolls and four girls in the center at the time of the observation. Three of the girls had a baby doll and one was trying to pull a doll from another child. I asked the girls why they were upset, there was another baby doll in the crib. The two girls pulling on the one doll said they did not like that doll. The doll left in the crib was of Asian race, they had the Caucasian doll, the Hispanic doll, and the black doll. I asked the other two girls if they would trade and they said they did not want to play with that doll either. I was surprised at the response I received from the girls. This caused me to stop and reflect on what I was observing and hearing. I felt I had failed in my effort to model and create an environment of equity for all.
Our class was made up of primarily Caucasian students, one child who’s family is from Guyana, and one child who’s family is from Mexico, not great diversity within our population. Regardless of the limited diversity within the classroom, I try to teach and set up a classroom that supports diversity. This observation could be seen as a racial micro-aggression, in the sense the children did not what to play with that doll because of the race it represented. It could also be seen as children playing out what they are familiar with, the dolls that were being used did represent the diversity of the classroom at the time. It could also simply be that doll was not designed in a way that appealed as well to the children as the other dolls.
Regardless of what the original cause of this action was, I knew as a major role model in the classroom I needed to take action to support the positive growth and development of my students. So I first helped the two girls fighting over the one doll realize they could share the responsibly of taking care of the baby. They were able to work out which childcare roles each of them would take on. I choose to pretend the last baby in the crib was crying and need someone to take care of her. So I picked up the baby changed her diaper, dressed her, feed her, and talked to her. The girls were happy I joined their play and they helped me get things I needed to take care of the baby. Soon there was an incident in an other center that required my attention, so I asked the girl who was not holding a baby at that time to help me by watching over my baby while I was gone. She was happy to take over and help. I eventually made my way back and asked if she needed me to take the baby back. She said it was her baby now and she was making dinner for her. This made me feel like I had had a positive influence and our classroom was back on track being respectful and inclusive of all.
I could have chosen to ignore what I observed or dismissed it as nothing. However, my goal is to instill a sense of shared interconnectedness for all my students and all people they will meet throughout their lives. “Society needs to realize the suppression and oppression of one group oppresses me and my group as well (Laureate, 2011).” It is just as important for me to be positive role model for the diversity within my classroom as well as it is for the diversity outside my classroom.
Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). Microaggressions in everyday life [Video file]
Sue, D. W. (2010). Microaggressions in everyday life: Race, gender, and sexual orientation. New York, NY: Wiley