As a parent of school aged children, you know that the school's job is to meet the needs of all students. It seems pretty simple right? While in school, all students should be kept safe while receiving a quality education & learning social skills.
You would think that meeting the needs of biracial (or minority children) would be the same as white children right?
Many educators think that having a friend of a different race bans them from having discriminatory or racist bones in their bodies. That my friends is not enough, and does not shield you from your own personal biases. Here is a helpful guide for meeting the needs of biracial children in your school:
- Embrace differences. As educators, we are in the unique position to break the chains of discrimination within the boundaries of our classrooms. We can work with our parents, community members and administrators to bring diversity to our schools on a regular basis (morning/afternoon announcements, holiday parties, programs, faculty meetings, seasonal events, PTA/PTO meetings, yearbook planning, etc)
Be cognizant of the fact that representation matters. If you have posters in your room, hang pictures displaying a diverse group of children. Add multicultural books to your classroom collection that are diverse in nature. Don't play classroom games that focus on physical features. I'll give you an example. Growing up, I was one of the few black girls in my church after several black families moved away (military life). In our Wednesday night class, we were asked to bring baby pictures for an activity. When we arrived, our pictures were placed on a bulletin board & numbered. Our task was to guess whose picture belonged to whom. Unfortunately, I was the only black girl, so everyone got the free space on the proverbial BINGO card. Before this moment, no one ever made me feel like the odd one out for being the only black girl. I'm sure that wasn't my teacher's intention, but that day I felt all alone. I almost felt sick to my stomach and wondered if everyone was whispering about me. I won the game, but it felt like I'd lost. Don't pick an identity for your student(s). If you are unsure of your student's racial identity, don't pick it for them. If a student "looks white" and they have marked biracial/multiracial, please don't ask them if they are sure. Identify areas of personal bias. This is huge!! I've had to do this many times, especially this year. One parent came in to talk with me recently about some issues she's had with her child and a fellow classmate. The parent asked her child why they were not allowed to communicate with the classmate. The child replied, "because they are black." I'm sure when they had these conversations at home, the mom never imagined that the daughter would utter those words in front of her black counselor. It just makes me wonder how she feels about other black students and the ramifications her biases have on them. This is important because we must recognize when our personal biases are interfering with our job as educators. Understand the developmental needs of all children. Don't worry, I won't take you back to a psychology class, but it's important to recognize that ALL children, regardless of race, will go through similar developmental stages. One of my favorites psychologists, Jean Piaget, believed that children are like "little scientists" and that they actively try to explore and make sense of the world around them. Understand that culture may affect what is considered "normal" or "all-American." Keep in mind that when conferencing with parents, there are culturally diverse methods of communicating, parenting and discipline. It's important to know when our own cultural experiences are influencing our decision-making about what is deemed as appropriate.
As a school counselor and a parent of biracial children, doing these things helps me to be sensitive to the needs of my students and families.
This article was originally posted on Are Those Your Kids?
Follow Diedre Anthony on Twitter: www.twitter.com/rthoseyourkids
The Stakes Have Never Been Higher