Some of us may remember early childhood as a time when we thought everyone was just like us. Others may have realized early on that there were different cultures around them, perhaps by hearing other languages on the playground, smelling different foods at lunchtime, or hearing about others’ traditions during classroom sharing time.
Research has shown that most children become aware of how others see them at a young age, and that these attitudes may impact their developing sense of self. To form self-confidence and a positive view of themselves and school, children must feel that their teachers and classmates respect them, their families, and their cultures. We no longer think that being “colorblind”—avoiding discussion of color or culture—is a positive, or even a possible goal; instead, schools today often seek to demonstrate respect for all students’ families and cultures, so that students feel seen, heard, and valued, while at the same time learning that people from other backgrounds also deserve respect and acceptance.
Research has shown that most children become aware of how others see them at a young age, and that these attitudes may impact their developing sense of self. To form self-confidence and a positive view of themselves and school, children must feel that their teachers and classmates respect them, their families, and their cultures.
Find out how a school approaches diversity, equity, and inclusion. Does a school have a diverse student body and staff? Are there curricular opportunities to explore other cultures, such as through class inquiries or projects? Can students ask questions about these issues comfortably, and do teachers know how to guide such discussions? Are parents from different backgrounds included equally in school events, communications, and volunteer opportunities? It is important to feel that your child will be comfortable and happy at the school, able to share their family background and learn about others in a mutually respectful way.
- Can you describe a unit, project, or discussion that addressed cultural diversity in the last year?
- Does your school have stated policies that make it welcoming to children and families of all ethnicities and cultures?
- What kinds of opportunities do students have to explain and celebrate their cultures, traditions, beliefs, or holidays?
- Seek out ways to expose your children to other cultures, so they get used to seeing other ways of living: Visit places where people of other cultures live; tour a church, temple, or mosque; try a new type of food; go to a cultural celebration; chat with people who look and sound different from your family.
- Learn about other places and cultures with your children, through reading, travel, museum visits, music, TV programs, and movies.
- Model being interested and accepting of other cultures, traditions, and beliefs—your children will follow your lead!