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Teaching Culturally Diverse Classrooms

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America now is a very culturally diverse nation; most of the minority and immigrant population lives in cities, which indicates that the public school classrooms in urban areas are full of versatile cultural identities. According to the 2000 Census record, minority and immigrant populations has grown in increasing numbers, and most of those people live in urban areas and attend public high schools; also, the level of residential segregation still remains as high as in 1990, which proposes new problems for immigrants and minorities. Monocultural schools are very rare and the global society is very multicultural; it is very logical to prepare students in schools to enter this diverse society (Le Roux 48). Teachers are largely responsible for what and how students learn. It is important to educate and establish respect in students by helping them become aware of the cultural and ethnic diversity that exists in the United States so that they are prepared for the real world, after school. "The imbalance between the racial/ethnic population become more disproportionate and the composition of the teaching force remains predominantly white, middle class, female"(qtd in Growe 208). Teachers are not adequately prepared to educate culturally diverse public classrooms in urban areas due to their monolingualism, cultural homogeneity, and the lack of knowledge, respect, and awareness of languages, cultural differences, and different human beings.

The U.S. Department of Education found out that 38.8 percent of public school students were minorities. Eighty percent of the teachers surveyed felt unprepared to teach a diverse student population. Teachers do not understand the psychology of a student and what the student experiences within the boundaries of his or her culture, so generally they focus on the external behavior and are forced to impose punishments following the regulation (Holloway 90). Research has been conducted and the study showed that, "Latino students perceived that teachers' actions escalated disciplinary problems and believed that administrators used unfair and discriminatory practices"(90). Educators will never be able to teach students if the students perceive them as being racist. The degree to which education for cultural diversity is realized depends on the teacher's attitudes, knowledge, and behavior. They make the mistake of mismatching their own life experiences and professional training. Le Roux realizes that an increasing diverse school population encounters a mostly middle-class teaching force that is inadequately prepared to manage the reality of diversity in schools, and that is due to lack of knowledge of diversity (46). He also states that some teachers make the mistake of generalizing about particular ethnic groups and cultural groups, as a result of being exposed during training to information about culture; that is very dangerous in itself. Educators also focus mostly on general characteristics of a group instead in a single individual, and this is wrong because each individual is unique and should not be generalized by culture (Le Roux 46).

Many cultural groups are entitled to maintain their traditional attitudes, values, and especially languages; the lack of educational achievement and improvement is sometimes caused by the problem of a different language background. Students with different cultural backgrounds speak different languages and this problem in turn makes the students realize their racial differences and use them as an excuse for the lack of educational achievement. The number of students who spoke a language other than English at home rose from 6.3 to 13.7 million in the last twenty years according to the U.S. Department of Education. There are also students with different cultural barriers that achieve academic success despite having to learn another language (Campbell 32). While schools do maintain bilingual programs, there is no "special instructional program outside the mainstream curriculum." The other problem is that most of the teachers are monolingual. In the article, "A Knowledge Base for Cultural Diversity," Growe mentions that it is very important for a student to come in contact with educators who share the same language and culture and that a lack of teachers from diverse racial/ethnic groups creates conditions that do not help to improve a successful multiracial society and excellence in education (208). Miller, the writer of, "Teaching and Learning About Cultural Diversity," also realizes that minority teachers will automatically be more successful than nonminority teachers working with minority students (346). The schools' administration must hire a multicultural staff instead of having the statistically mostly white, middle-class teachers. There is an example that Zhou gives in his article, "Urban Education," about a student that brought his parents to a parent-teachers conference. The teacher was puzzled by the smiling faces of the parents when she told them that their son has not been coming to class. The teacher didn't know that the student interpreted the words in a positive manner and told his parents that he has been so good that the teacher decided to give him a vacation. Zhou states that language problems have a negative impact on a student's school life and those difficulties in understanding teachers and expressing themselves lead to discouragement and boredom, which in turn leads to cutting classes and dropping out.

The main problem in having to educate a culturally diverse population in urban public schools is actually not knowing how to educate students of different cultures. "We have a reality of culturally deficient educators attempting to teach culturally different children" (qtd in Le Roix 46). The concern is that all students are taught the same way with the same approach and what educators do not understand is that "minority students are, by nature, less likely to be successful in school," and there is "some formulaic methodology that can be employed" to teach those students in ways different from teaching nonminority students (Miller 346). Educational practitioners, scholars, policy makers, and political figures in attendance participated in only limited conversations about teaching in multicultural environments such as the ones that exist in urban public schools (Cross 203).

Urban public schools are primarily attended by students from various racial minority and immigrant groups. In "Learning or Unlearning Racism," Cross, who is the author, states that in the last thirty years urban schools have become "intensely made up mostly of students of color" and continue to increase with multiculturalism while America's teaching force is becoming increasingly white. "Currently approximately



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