One of the issues I have seen in my years working is that of bias on anyone's part! For example, many teachers with a middle class background, do not always understand their impoverished students, for example.
This post on a friend's health care blog prompted some reflection on my part in education.
It is my experience that bias comes in many forms: gender, race, culture. Imagine a Jewish student teacher who only attended private Jewish schools, being paired with an associate teacher who was teaching in a predominantly Muslim school. That was my friend's situation and it was an eye opener. My friend has spent many years learning about Muslim culture, religion and traditions in order to better understand her elementary students.
Those trained in other parts of the world bring their society's bias. It is a tricky prospect.
For teachers trained in other countries, they may bring those biases with them. A wise administrator understands what to look out for, and helps them understand the values of Canadian society, or the country in which one teaches.
Gender bias is one of the most difficult issues, as individuals retain individual characteristics, yet there are simple norms, and trends that guide our wise curriculum choices.
Our Multicultural Liasion Officer in OCDSB was a vital part of our work. He provided translation during interviews, to not only ensure that the boys in my gr. 7/8 classes would have a male voice to listen to, but that the mothers, whose English might not be fluent totally understood our conversations. Not having an understanding of the roles of men and women in these client’s daily practice would have limited my ability to do my job properly. Violence is a huge part of many of our refugees lives and stories my students told of fleeing the warfare by going into the hills and then emigrating to Canada haunted all of us. Understanding the socio-political issues in the background of a client is important. Another of my students came to Canada to escape the Gulf War. Yet another was a Vietnamese Boat Person. We lauded their stories of bravery. We talked about what we would take with us if we had to flee our country. These issues demand that the counsellor take a case history that would help understand traditions, values and beliefs that limit or motivate a client. The importance of head coverings is another issue. "I know academic achievement is important in many Asian cultures"
I had a gr. 8 student who took a test to determine if he could be labelled a high ability learner and, therefore, qualify for streaming in a 'gifted' (hate the term!) designation. The dad, who had a Ph.D from China, and a successful engineering career in Ottawa, had develop erroneous biases that resulted in him berating the young man for 'failing' the test. In fact, in China, as my students have told me, if you do not succeed in particular tests you don't get into the 'good' schools and cannot succeed.
I counselled the dad that his kid had not failed. He scored in the 99th %ile in all but the language portion of the test (WISC-R). His ESL issues meant that he didn't score well in the language portion of the test, but in Canada that does not mean he cannot go to university, and get a decent education. He would be placed, at my recommendation, in a class of stronger students, we did group them in the next school where he would go. He would be free to apply for scholarships and higher educational opportunities, unlike the system in China where you either succeed or fail in going to the good or bad schools after taking an entrance test. This is why many of my students of oriental descent did many more hours of homework and extra work than other students.
In this case I had to give comforting words to the son during the student-led conference as dad berated him and told him he had failed. I felt it my duty to convey our cultural, educational practices and give the kid (who was BRILLIANT) a break. He seemed to feel as if he had failed, despite it all.
The culture is profoundly different here. I had developed a knowledge of technology, curriculum, pedagogy, religions. I had served students from all kinds of socioeconomic groups, cultures, in rural and urban setting. I had learned about the Qu’ran and Judaism to better work with my students. My portfolio included various learning activities that were inclusive of gender, ethnic groups and embraced diversity.
Some students from particular religious groups were unable to take sex ed. classes, others (Jehovah Witnesses) would not be able to participate in Hallowe'en or Remembrance Day ceremonies.
We know that boys and girls learn differently, but all must learn to work and play together.
Welcome! Brought to you from S. E. Ontario, Canada!
Happy to have been a teacher.
In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less, because passing civilization along from one generation to the next ought to be the highest honor and the highest responsibility anyone could have. -Lee Iacocca, automobile executive (b. 1924)
"Ignorance is not knowing. Stupidity is the active pursuit of ignorance"
This blog is based on my 25 years as a teacher in Ottawa, and a couple of years with NNDSB. I have time to reflect and put my experiences and opinions out there for others. Teaching is a collective experience, best shared. Visit my resume for more about my teaching background and credentials.