TWO: MIRRORS TO SELF-ESTEEM
All children need positive self-esteem. Some, however, see positive messages everywhere without trying. Others never see themselves positively in the world around them. Base your selection of materials on the context of the children you serve. If positive images abound for your children, begin to think about how to bring diversity and balance into the classroom. If society’s images are not very positive for your children, make your classroom a safe island in a hostile world.
THREE: WINDOWS TO DIVERSITY AND BALANCE
All children experience diversity because our world is diverse. The key question is whether this diversity is perceived as positive or negative. Think about who the “other” is as you work toward opening windows to diversity and balance.
If your classroom is naturally diverse racially and culturally, for example, you will not have to worry about providing opportunities for interactions between diverse groups of children. You will focus instead on how to promote positive interactions between the children.
If your classroom has little diversity, build first on the differences that are there. Start with boys and girls, for example. As you help children recognize and respect the diversity of others, pay careful attention to how this “other” is generally perceived by the community you serve. The balance of diversity you bring into this classroom is what will be different, based on the context of the children who are there.
Balance, on the other hand, doesn’t just mean 50/50. It means evaluating the context of the children in your classrooms and the larger society. Some children need more positive images of themselves in your classroom because such images can’t be found in their community. Others need positive images of people who are different from them because the community already includes images like your children, but not of other people.
Take care not to degrade someone you think is not present. We may not know which child is adopted, or whose parent is unemployed. Listen to the children. Answer their spoken questions. Also try to answer unspoken questions about diversity that may not be so obvious. Help your children be sensitive to others, and to not be afraid for themselves.