My goal is to create a learning environment that demonstrate respect and acceptance of diversity that will support the development of children’s positive personal identity as well as a positive social identity (Santora, 2004). “What children do not see in the classroom teaches children as much as what they do see.” (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010) We as teacher must ask what message our classroom environment is sending children about their identities to insure we have done all we can to make children and families feel welcomed and represented in our classrooms.
Our classroom journey begins with setting up the environment, which starts with families. Families are the foundation to an anti-bias education. (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010) Our quiet transition nook, supports morning transitions, demonstrating understanding and flexibility for families and the important role they play (Laureate, 2011). This space is filled with comfortable seating, familiar books, and quiet music. Then as you move into our classroom, images of all our families are throughout the classroom to help children and families feel welcome and represented. Our family share space shelves encourage families to show case items that represent their families, culture, and heritage (Laureate, 2011). The share shelves allow families a chance to share with staff and other families what is important to their family. This is a great opportunity for families to get to know each other better and learn about a variety of families similar and different from their own. The more visible we can make each child’s culture with in our classroom culture the more children can develop their positive personal and social identity (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010).
It is important that each child in our class’s culture is represented in a variety of ways to demonstrate the value we place in their culture. Then we must take it to the next step to demonstrate acceptance of other cultures beyond our own (Santora, 2004). As you take a closer look at the variety of centers you will discover they are set up to foster exploration and conversations between children on many diverse topics. Within each of these centers a variety of materials are provided to support children at different levels allowing all children to be successful in all areas of the classroom. Materials in each center support diversity through multicultural dolls and people, multicultural foods, bilingual labels and signs, images of people of various cultures, ethnicity, gender, ability, and age in roles related to each center, and images of children in the class participating in the centers with peers, staff, and family members. It is important to take time in choosing images to post so we do not inadvertently display pictures, books, or materials that reinforce stereotypes (Santora, 2004). The centers and materials provide many opportunities for “teachable moments” about equity and diversity. “Anti-bias curriculum seeks to nurture the development of every child’s fullest potential by actively addressing issues of diversity and equity in the classroom (Derman-Sparks & Hohensee, 1992).”
It is natural and successful anti-bias education when children notice difference and want to talk about them, however it is how we respond that will determine the message they receive and carry with them about diversity and equity (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010). Our classroom environment is only as supportive of ant-bias education as we address each anti-bias “teachable moment” as it arises. “What children do not hear us say or see in our classrooms teaches them as much as what we do say and they do see in our classrooms” (Derman-Sparks & Edwards, 2010, pp.43). Setting up an anti-bias environment takes a great amount of thought and planning. We must never forget to include families in our anti-bias education plans. Families are the diversity of our communities and are an invaluable resource.
Derman-Sparks, L., & Olsen Edwards, J. (2010). Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves. Washington, DC: NAEYC.
Laureate Education, Inc. (2011). Strategies for working with diverse children: Welcome to an anti-bias learning community. Baltimore, MD: Author
Santora, L., & Anti-Defamation League staff. (2004). How Can You Create A learning
Environment That Respects Diversity? New York, NY: Anti-Defamation League.