What I love about Twitter is that I am constantly exposed to questions, advice, and reflections from educators around the globe. It’s both a fishbowl and a mirror.
The tweet that you see to the right came across my Twitter feed a few days ago and it resonated with me in light of the book I’ve been reading Cultural Diversity and education: Foundations, Curriculum, and Teaching by James Banks (2016).
One of Banks’ (2016) five dimensions of multicultural education focuses on an empowering school culture and social structure which is defined as “grouping and labeling practices, sports participation, disproportionality in achievement, and the interaction of the staff and students across ethnic and racial lines” (p. 4). And then it dawned on me…what is the non-verbal story of my school?
When students walk through our gates, what do they see besides an immaculate campus? Do they see evidence of the cultural diversity that exists on our campus? Are there images or media that reflect the multicultural makeup of our local community? What about the MPR? The library/media center? The individual classrooms?
And then I thought…what do our parents see when they walk through the doors of our front office? Our school was newly modernized so parents will see a clean layout in the front office. Our front office staff is super friendly (and represent a variety of ethnicities and races to boot)…but is there anything else that represents the diverse and multicultural makeup of ALL our stakeholders? Are there any connections to local businesses and the community?
I’m not proposing that we hang up posters that represent the various nationalities, ethnicities, and races of our faculty, staff, and students and leave it at that. Because that’s just cosmetic (Nieto, 2008). What my school needs to consider is what is the non-verbal story our school is telling students? What is the non-verbal story our school is telling parents? What is the non-verbal story our school is telling the community?
To foster an empowering school culture and school structure, we need to put our heads together to figure out how our current school structure and physical environment can reflect our multicultural and diverse student body. Because right now, the non-verbal story of our school is pretty benign. I mean, the campus is certainly pretty, but the story is pretty benign.
Looks like we have our work cut out for us.
Banks, J. A. (2016). Cultural diversity and education: Foundations, curriculum, and teaching (6th ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Nieto, S. (2008). Affirmation, solidarity and critique: Moving beyond tolerance in education. In E. Lee, D. Menkart, & M. Okazawa-Rey (Eds.), Beyond heroes and holidays (pp. 18-29). Washington, DC: Teaching for Change.