Tuesday, February 13, 2024

10 Tips to Prepare for a Diverse Classroom + Professional Development

I love to celebrate Black History Month to help my children recognize and appreciate the different cultures that are part of our community. It's also a great reminder for me to constantly self-analyze my own approaches to culture, learn more about the cultures around me, and make sure that I am using culturally-sensitive approaches in my teaching, so when ChildCare Education Institute (CCEI) approached me about sharing some of their resources, I very happily said, "Yes!" 

I went through two courses to prepare for this article: PROF108 (Cultural Competence in Early Childhood Education) from CCEI and SOC101 (Introduction to Sociology) from StraighterLine. I learned a ton from both courses, and am excited to share 10 Tips to Prepare for a Diverse Classroom with you! 

These courses cover many more things than just the 10 tips that I'm sharing today, so if you're interested in learning more, CCEI is offering you a discount code for their annual subscription! Use the code PPP24 to save $20 on an Annual Individual Training Subscription--you'll get access to PROF108 and hundreds of other courses! I'll share more about this below! Expires 3/3/24.

First, let's get started on those 10 Tips! 

#1: Promote the cultures of the children in your care! PROF108 points out that children develop their self-esteem within the culture they're being raised in, so it is extremely important that we treat that culture with respect when we refer to it and when we respond to our children. 

I'll share some specific ways we can do that in #'s 2-5, but this tip is a reminder to check your own attitudes and responses. Every time we interact with our kids, we are sending messages to them about how we perceive them and their culture. We need to make sure we respond to the things they tell us, the languages their families might speak, and their home environments with respect. This will help them develop a healthy self-esteem and be able to advocate for both themselves and others in the future.

#2: Deliberately include culture and diversity in your curricula. One way to do this is a suggestion from PROF108: share fairy tales from different cultures. A lot of popular fairy tales focus on European stories, but there are fantastic stories from around the world that all children benefit from. This exposes our children to different ideas and cultures while sending a message of the importance and value of those differences. 

This is one resource I have enjoyed: A Bedtime Full of Stories by Angela McAllister. It has 50 stories divided up into the parts of the world that they originate from.

#3: Make sure the children in your care see themselves! Use books! Put books that feature the cultures of your children in places where your children can see them, pick them up, and "read" them---with your help or by themselves! 

This also helps create a continuous approach to cultural competence, both for minority children who see their cultures represented right next to the dominant culture and for children in the dominant culture who need to see minorities represented as just as important as themselves.

Did you know that only about 12% of picture books have characters who are Black? Here are a few that I love:


#4: Make sure the children in your care see themselves! Use posters! Decorate your rooms in ways that celebrate the cultures of all the children in your area. Obviously, this includes taking the time to get to know those cultures yourself and finding ways to represent them in the decorations, inspirations, and curricula you use. To get you started, I made this little packet of Inspirational People Mini-Posters. You're welcome to print as many copies as you like and display them or use them in other ways. For example, you could print them all on one page, make two copies, and play matching games with them!

#5: Let children learn to enjoy, appreciate, and seek out differences! PROF108 points out that children will notice differences. Our job is to create a culture of appreciation and respect for those differences. We can do this by encouraging healthy discussions and making sure we intervene quickly when we hear anything unkind or disparaging. 

PROF108 (Cultural Competence in Early Childhood Education) is a 2-hour course that covers so much more than I've been able to share! It explores the history of multicultural education, self-reflective practices, and practical ways to encourage a healthy cultural competence in yourself and the children you teach. It is the best professional development I've taken on multicultural education, and I highly recommend it!

The course is distributed over 126 slides, like the one below:

Most slides have instructional material, but some include reflection questions, assessment questions (that must be passed before moving on to new material), and interactive activities.

After you finish the course, there is a short exam that you must pass at 70% to pass the course. Then you can download a certificate of completion!

Let me tell you a few more things about courses from CCEI:

** My favorite aspect is that the courses are very user-friendly and convenient! They are all online and available 24/7/365 at your convenience!
** 99% of students say they would recommend CCEI to others.
** The Individual Annual Subscription is perfect for teachers or parents who need professional development! For one annual fee, you get access to their entire catalog of over 200 courses in English and Spanish, IACET CEUs, certificates of completion, and more. I've taken courses from them in topics as varied as literacy, ADHD, growth mindset, brain development, sensational science, and more! This is my favorite professional development provider, and the discount they're offering for Preschool Powol Packets readers is fantastic!! Use the code PPP24 and SAVE $20 off an Individual Annual Training Subscription by clicking the link HERE! Expires 3/3/2024.

The next few tips come from the course SOC101 (Introduction to Sociology) from StraighterLine. StraighterLine is the parent company of CCEI, and includes college-credit courses, like SOC101. I'll share more about StraighterLine after the last few Tips to Preparing for a Diverse Classroom!

#6: Discover and acknowledge your own prejudices and discriminations! SOC101 points out that race is a social construct. It has no basis in genetics, but it has a deeply-rooted basis in our social systems. As teachers and members of a community, we need to take the time to recognize our own biases so that we do not perpetuate them. 

One problem discussed was "color-blind racism," or the idea that while we may not discriminate based on a person's ethnicity, we might discriminate on other factors that are created by that ethnicity or culture. 

We also need to be aware of institutionalized discrimination, which is when social organizations are run in ways that create unequal outcomes for members of different groups. This can range from things in our control (like how we treat children in our programs) to things that we cannot control (like the tendency for waste treatment facilities to be near minority neighborhoods). If we are not even aware of these kinds of things, we cannot hope to be able to do anything about them.

#7: Contact Hypothesis: This might be one of the most hopeful ideas that StraighterLine's Sociology course has to offer racism. Contact Hypothesis is the idea that the more time people from different backgrounds spend working together productively, the more they will understand each other and appreciate their differences. 

At a most basic level, this suggests that in our classrooms, we need to provide opportunities for our children to work together with children who are different from them. They need a chance to get to know each other, appreciate those differences, and see their peers solve problems with them. 

Just letting young children play together might be enough, but I think we can facilitate this even better with activities like cooperative art projects, group activities where they need to work together to solve problems, and discussions.

These two art projects are some of my favorite collaborative projects I've done with young children:


#8: Share achievements of people from a variety of cultures---represent your kids! One of the aspects of white privilege that was discussed in SOC101 is the fact that successful white people surround us. Children from other cultures may not see themselves reflected in the images of success around them. Put up posters of successful people from a variety of cultures in your classroom and share examples of them during your discussions!

You can start with my little packet above of Inspirational People. I included the following six people:

** Angela Merkel: a German politician and scientist who served as the chancellor of Germany for 15 years
** Cesar Chavez: an American Labor Leader and Civil Rights Activist
** Kalpana Chawla: an American pilot, engineer, NASA scientist, and astronaut
** Martin Luther King, jr: an American minister and leader of the Civil Rights Movement for over a decade (until he was assassinated)
** Nelson Mandela: the first president of South Africa and leader of the country's resistance to apartheid before that
** Sonia Sotomayor: the first Latina to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States

#9: Allow and encourage the use and appreciation of other languages! One aspect of institutionalized discrimination is that minority languages are not allowed. When we appreciate the languages of the children we work with, we send the message that they are important. It helps build their self-worth and their self-esteem. 

#10: Review your own history! This might not seem like a big deal as you prepare to work with other culture's but knowing your own culture and how it interacts with those of the children you're working with is really important! 

I really appreciated the historical aspects of both courses I took. Seeing racism and discrimination over the last hundred years in America is a different view than looking at it from just the modern angles of our own communities. 

It's much easier to understand the strong feelings that still run through different communities when you consider the recent past. For example, the Civil Rights movement really reached its height in the 1960s and 70s... barely 50 years ago. In the 80s and 90s, multicultural education became a new trend as educators tried to close the achievement gaps they saw in different minority groups. A lot of ideas that are now recognized as frustrating (such as color-blindness and melting pot) were promoted as being a good thing. As the 21st century began, educators began to be encouraged to see the differences in our community and appreciate them. While this is still the best advice, we are now wondering if pointing out the differences might actually lead to more bias instead of less? 

Education is a constantly evolving field--we need to know our history so that we can keep moving forward in the ways that will lead our children to the most successful futures possible!

I really appreciated the way StraighterLine's SOC101 shared our country's history in light of sociology and racism. Most of the material on racism and discrimination was in the course's Topic 8: Social Inequality.

Of course, sociology is much more than just racism and discrimination. There is no possible way I could summarize everything this course offers, but here is a brief overview of the course's other topics:

Here are all 13 Topics for the Course:

You can keep track of the Topic you are on, your course progress, and the assignments associated with it when you log in:

When you open up a topic, like Topic 8, you get a screen with all the course material for that topic:

The links make it really easy to navigate between text chapters, the lesson presentation, and assignments. 

The textbook is entirely available online. It has a super easy-to-use navigation bar on the left and highlight and note taking options available.

The final grade for the course is a combination of exam scores:

Like other StraighterLine courses, this is available online 24/7, on your schedule! It is self-paced. This is my favorite aspect of the courses--it is super convenient!

This course also earns you 3 college credit hours that can transfer to hundreds of colleges and universities!

Or, if you'd like to begin an Early Childhood Education degree, StraighterLine has prepared a bundle of 5 courses for you with a special 20% off discount! Check them out here!

And, in case you're curious, here are a few more details about StraighterLine courses:

** Courses include eTextbooks, 24/7 on-demand tutoring, live student support 7 days a week, and proctoring for the final exam.
** Typical course completion time is about 45 days.
** Courses start at only $79 plus a $99 monthly membership fee. You can start and stop whenever you need to, and pick back up right where you left off! (But check out the bundled discount here!)

I hope I've inspired you with a few ideas to prepare for a diverse classroom! I know I learned a lot from the two courses I took from CCEI and StraighterLine, and I highly recommend them both!

Let me know if you have any questions--you're always welcome to email me!!

And remember that CCEI and StraighterLine are offering you TWO amazing deals this month:

CCEI is offering you a discount code for their annual subscription! Use the code PPP24 to save $20 on an Annual Individual Training Subscription--you'll get access to hundreds of courses! Expires 3/3/2024. 

This article is sponsored by ChildCare Education  Institute. All opinions are mine--you know I only recommend products and companies I love!

Happy Educating,

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