Appreciating Diversity

I was browsing in a toy store at the Dubai Mall looking for some educational type gifts for my nephew and I stumbled upon this…

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At first I laughed, took a picture, and sent it to my family.  I was actually really impressed with what I saw and annoyed with myself that I laughed.  For many families living in the GCC this is their reality even if they don’t come from a gulf (Khaleej) family.  This traditional dress is what all expat and local kids see in their communities daily.  In Dubai, local women traditionally wear a black abaya and men wear a white kandura (dishdasha).

As I reflected on upon my initial reaction, I realized that growing up in the USA, I never saw these toys in the toy store.  I never saw a toy or doll that looked like me or my family.

A little more poking around led me to this:

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I was very impressed with these toys, and looked them up and found that they are made by a company based in the UK called elc.  I would love to see these types of toys in a center in an early learning classroom.

“Another way to ensure diversity in children’s lives is to choose toys, books and media that reflect all types of people (e.g., include images of people with a variety of backgrounds, ages, abilities, characters that break stereotypes about men and women, art supplies in a wide range of skin, eye and hair colors). “

(Bias-Free Foundations: Early Childhood Activities for Families, 2001)

How are you ensuring diverse experiences and materials for your students or children?  Comments welcome.

Expectations

“When people are placed in positions slightly above what they expect, they are apt to excel.”

~Richard Branson

I saw the following student work displayed in a 9th grade science class:

I waited for the teacher to turn around before I snapped the pic.  I didn’t want her to know that seeing this caused me have an ulcer for the day.  This is exactly what I taught my first graders when we were learning about the same topic.  Something is horribly wrong here!

Lately, a running theme in my work has been observing urban educators with low expectations of their students.  Many times, I don’t even think they realize they are doing it.  I have been a part of multiple conversations recently where people use the label “SPED kids” or Special Ed kids”.  This terminology makes my skin crawl.  We have to look at the child first.  People can say it’s all the same thing, but is it?  I would rather hear “student with special needs” or a “student with a disability”.  I heard a school administrator call a student: “the downs kid” – REALLY???  How about calling a student by name?  Or saying the child with Down’s Syndrome? We must stop using these identifiers in this manner.

How can we better model and teach the language and practice of inclusion and tolerance? How do we change the discourse?

Comments welcome