In the course text, Fifty Strategies for Communicating and Working with Diverse Families, the end of each chapter includes a section titled “What Teachers Can Do.” The journal activities throughout this course will allow you to reflect upon and note strategies for family-centered care and education.
From this week’s reading (Section 3), identify at least two techniques you can use to honor and work with diversity in the childcare or academic setting. Describe how you will use each technique in the child-care or classroom setting. Lastly, identify how you feel the technique helps to develop an understanding and appreciation for cultural differences.
WHAT TEACHERS CAN DO • The first step in working toward consensus around an area of conflict is to suspend judgment and try to understand the other person’s perspective. Barbara Rogoff (2003) writes: “We must separate understanding of patterns from judgments of their value. If judgments of value are necessary, as they often are, they will thereby be much better informed if they are suspended long enough to gain some understanding of the patterns involved in one’s own familiar ways as well as in the sometimes surprising ways of other communities” (p. 14). (See Strategies 15 and 17 about patterns.) • To suspend judgment, take the advice of Rumi, a 13th century poet from what is now Afganistan, who wrote: “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there lies a field. I will meet you there.” If you go out to that field with a parent to talk about your views, you may be able to see a reality that is bigger than both of you. • Appreciate the energy of paired truths, and remember that according to Parker Palmer (1997), only adhering to one of them is like breathing in without breathing out. Instead of trying to solve the problem right away, go out to Rumi’s field, which changes the arena in which you can have a dialogue and gives you a chance to engage in holistic thinking. • Seek an optimal response to the situation, and at the same time, increase the depth and strength of the relationship. This approach makes it easier to figure out what to do about your differences in this situation with this child and family in this classroom or program. In his foreword to Crucial Conversations, Steven Covey (2012) uses the term synergy to label third space. He says it is imperative that we nourish our relationships and develop tools, skills, and enhanced capacity to find new and better solutions to our problems. These newer, better solutions will not represent “my way” or “your way”—they will represent “our way.” • Recognize that to reach a third-space or synergistic solution you need to: • Believe it possible • Accept that there are multiple realities and paired truths • Change from arguing and persuading to dialoguing • Practice dialoguing instead of arguing, because according to Steven Covey genuine dialogue “transforms people and relationships … and creates an entirely new level of bonding producing what Buddhism calls ‘the middle way’—not a compromise between two opposites on a straight-line continuum, but a higher middle way, like the apex of a triangle” (p. xii). • Recognize that, though finding a solution to the conflict is the ultimate goal, you may not reach that point, in which case you have to practice conflict management because you can’t reach conflict resolution. Perhaps the best you can do is agree to disagree. Once, in a workshop, the issue of differences in ideas about toilet training came up. I said, “You don’t have to do what the parent wants. It’s hard in a center, and I’m just telling you to be respectful of the difference.” As I finished the sentence, a hand shot up from the audience. A participant was obviously very eager to speak. She stood up and said, “Here’s what happened to me. A mother brought her one-year-old daughter to the center for the first time, and she told me that she was already toilet trained. I didn’t believe her, but instead of responding negatively, I asked her to show me what she did. She showed me and it worked! The baby was trained and didn’t need to wear diapers. It didn’t take any more time and energy than changing diapers would have.” What surprised me about this story was that the participant, though willing to try something new, really didn’t have faith that it would work. She was wrong. It did work. This story illustrates a win-win solution. The caregiver kept on with what she believed in for the other children, but was also able to satisfy the mother. In other words, the caregiver expanded her ideas about what was possible and didn’t give up anything.