We had thought about taking this week off and then we thought better of it. The observed holiday of Martin Luther King Jr Day is a pretty important day, not just because of his ideals that he shared on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. What do we need to know to be better educators in the face of ethnic diversity and experiences educators may have little understanding of?
Heroes and Heroines
February and March are major ethnic celebratory months; February being African American History Month and March being Women’s History Month. If you are wondering, Latin American History month is the latter part of September through mid-October and Asian American History month is in May, Disability Awareness Months happen all through the year, but also has a focus in October for many disabilities.
When choosing a list of individuals to explore with students, certainly it is quite easy to pick out the big names—Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, or President Obama. But those names for less major contributors: Katherine Johnson, Bessie Coleman, Benjamin Banneker, take a little bit of research and are often not as attractive because of the research required to make those historical figures attractive.
In our observations it always feels easy to grab the big name for our students with disabilities. After all, which names will the student hear more of their entire life? That they will hear the other names in a presentation the following week or so. But what about student choice? That presenting a student a series of names that they may not have a connection to sometimes might be worth the energy of helping students see more individuals than they are used to hearing about. Sometimes for students the process and building an opportunity of connection is as important as the individuals to know about.
What You Might Not Know…
Be truthful to yourself if you are unaware about issues surrounding one specific ethnic group. Learning how to participate in hard conversations is a part of being an educator and learning about the world that you might not participate in.
The other part, try to connect those individuals all year long and not just during those special months. It’s convenient to focus on other individuals during the special months, but having a series of folks that you are aware of in all industries is as important.
There was an online discussion Renay came across recently about the importance of knowledge on the part of educators. And there was a mention of the importance of being informed about the world and events beyond the classroom. One person in the conversation mentioned that their pursuit of education started with one of their instructors as they started their credential program mentioned that they should read the news, at least two different sources.
Paraeducators, unfortunately have many more demands on their time – like second or third jobs—than some student teachers. But the principle remains the same. Find something to educate yourself about. It might not be news, and frankly, with the national news the last few weeks, maybe a little less news might make one feel better about sleeping at night. But reading different fictional books, especially current fictional books that teenagers might find interesting, or books about the history of the city or town you live in. Part of the job is to keep learning. Some of us come by this more easily than others. But living on the knowledge you know is not enough to stay ready in a job that is perhaps one of the most demanding you will ever face. Having a focus beyond knowing your student helps keep things in life in perspective. Not just for yourself but how to present things to your students. It might be difficult to add in ‘one more’ thing, but there are perhaps more ways than ever before to learn about the wider world even if you do have multiple jobs.
Part of the job is to keep learning. Some of us come by this more easily than others.ParaEducate
- Start small. Five minutes a week. Maybe ten or fifteen for a partial podcast while you drive between jobs.
- Share during lunch with your coworkers something you learned that week. If you don’t have a coworker who you can share, try someone you live with at home or even talking to a plant. It matters, trust us on that one.
- If it is not sticking: find something else that does keep your attention. Don’t go looking for trivia level knowledge, just get your attention to make you wonder. If you wonder, your curiosity will follow.
One More Thing
We just found out: Renay will be at the first digital Cal-TASH in March. Can’t wait to see you all there. Want to know more about Cal-TASH? Check it out.
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, and on our website. ParaEducate is a company providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published during the academic school year on Mondays, unless a holiday or announced day off. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.