Awareness and Visibility

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Unit 3: Awareness and Visibility

Awareness and Visibility

Culture is acutely aware of attitude. What does it mean to "listen, affirm, and enter in" when we speak of multiculturalism? For starters, the important thing is to encounter other cultures either in person (through our students), through travel, through reading, or through technology. Then, we must ask curiosity questions and we must listen with a "sensitive ear," in a way that helps us to see the world through the eyes of another.

To take it one step further, to truly "listen, affirm, and enter in" to another culture, we must eat their foods, dance their dances, sing their songs, listen to and learn their stories.

Knowing Your Student is a Lesson Plan

Educator and author, Parker Palmer, wrote a book called To Know as We are Known. The title says it all: In order for our students to learn, they must first be "known." Their stories, their personal experiences, their learning styles, their intelligences, their lives within the context of their family and culture must be known (or "seen") by peers and teachers alike.

We began this course with the idea of "developing a sensitive eye". Here, that sensitive eye is vital. We do not engage in the "doubting game" of tearing down or tearing apart in order to make our students visible. We engage in the "believing game" through which we "listen, affirm, and enter in." The sensitive eye we develop as educators (and the sensitive eye we help our students to develop as learners) becomes the receptor for knowing about the history, culture, and individual identities of each of our students.

This is important because multicultural education is the ability to appreciate and know all learners.

Making Students Visible

Here are some concrete ways to help our students' cultural identities become visible and known in our classrooms and schools:

  • Ask students to tell a story about a special family object that has been passed down from generation to generation.
  • Ask students to share a family recipe, photograph, or a story about one of their ancestors.
  • Ask students to share a song or dance from their family or culture.
  • When students come to school in the morning, or stay after school, listen to the stories they wish to tell you.
  • When students share their ideas in class, let there be silence when the student speaks. When the student finishes talking, ask the other students, "How many people can say back what your classmate just said?" Do this periodically to let students know that when a student speaks, her voice is valuable to the group.
  • Do not repeat what a student says to the class; this takes power away from the student's words and it teaches students that their voices are not as important as yours. If you want to emphasize a point, ask the student who has just spoken to repeat what he or she has just said.
  • Create lessons that engage the mind, heart, and body of your students, and instruction that allows them to utilize their multiple intelligences (kinesthetic, auditory, visual, interpersonal, intrapersonal, emotional, artistic, etc.). In this way, each student will be able to participate and enter into the learning process.
  • Ask students what they need from you as a teacher and what they need from their peers. Create opportunities for students to say what they need. One way of doing this is to have students complete a "What I am Looking for in a Teacher" form. Another is to hold class meetings where students can voice what they need from others in a safe and inviting manner.

Awareness of the Larger World

Once students are known for their individual identity and culture, they will be able to develop a larger identity for the community in which they live; then their country or culture; and, finally, they will feel themselves connected as a citizen of this earth.

Rumi, the thirteenth-century poet, once wrote: "Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing there is a field. I'll meet you there." There is always common ground.

In Hindi the word is drishtikona, and it implies that one does not have to relinquish one viewpoint for another. Rather, multiple viewpoints can be held and understood, simultaneously. We must listen to, appreciate, and celebrate the multitude of individual, family, societal, and global cultures that we encounter in our students. 

Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource. fred. (2008, June 13). Education for the New Millennium. Retrieved May 04, 2010, from TWB Courseware Web site. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.