We are halfway through “Hispanic Heritage Month” and students have been learning about culture, traditions, and even a few famous or noteworthy Hispanic people. Our own Hispanic students are being given a chance to share special things about their heritage through the month. They also led our Hispanic Heritage” assembly this past week!
Last week, a 4th grade girl shared details about her Indian heritage with her classmates during morning meeting. She brought in her Quran and showed with great pride the Arabic words on the page while giving explanations of their meaning. She also gave each of her classmates a handmade bookmark that she inscribed with their name written in Arabic. A few Jewish students recently brought artifacts to school and gave a “mini” lesson on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Their classmates were delighted to hear how their friends recognized these important religious traditions and were eager to share the traditions that related to their own heritage and or religion.
At Park Maitland, diversity is celebrated and appreciated by all! We make a concerted effort to teach students traditions and cultures of many nationalities and religions. Most importantly, we take the time to teach our students to respect and appreciate the many different ethnicities that make up our student body, our communities, and our world. Your child will learn about other cultures, both past and present in the classroom. At home, you can use these lessons as an excellent opportunity to emphasize and value racial and cultural diversity. This is an excellent topic to teach elementary school-age children. They are forming lots of opinions about themselves and the people around them. This is when their natural curiosity about differences in appearance and cultural backgrounds really begin to come into play.
We find that we don’t have to teach tolerance. Here’s the beautiful thing about kids: Most are born with a natural sense of justice and fairness. Unless they are taught to be hurtful and cruel, children know that it’s wrong to attack others either physically or with words. All we have to do is nurture this natural love of people and get out of their way. If you are uneasy or uncomfortable around people of different backgrounds, your child will pick up on it. Consider the way you talk about people. Do you describe someone by his/her race or physical appearance rather than other characteristics first? What messages are you sending for your child to pick up?
See the broader value of teaching acceptance. Learning to appreciate and respect all kinds of differences — not just racial and cultural but differences in socioeconomic levels, gender, and even disabilities — is an important skill in today’s diverse society. A child who is taught to devalue others based upon differences will face a tough and lonely road ahead.
Today, our neighborhoods and communities tend to be more diverse, giving children a chance to interact with children from other cultures and backgrounds. There’s no doubt that we still have a long way to go, but it’s a great time to be an American. And as an American, I am proud of the fact that celebration of differences is what makes our country and our school so special and great!
Head of School