A new book is on the horizon. Innovative Voices in Education- Engaging Diverse Communities, is described by leading urban sociologist and Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education at New York University, Pedro Norguera as ”clear and compelling… an invaluable resource.” Given that Norguera’s scholarship and research focuses on the ways in which schools are influenced by social and economic conditions in the urban environment, his endoresment of this book is humbling and important.
I wrote the closing chapter for Innovative Voices… Multicultural to Intercultural: Developing Interdependent Learners. By design, the other sixteen chapters were written by a wonderfully diverse array of people from all over the place. All of this came together through the tireless efforts of Eileen Kugler, executive editor of the book. I am grateful to have contributed to such an interesting and thought-provoking process. Here is the summary of my chapter…
Kids from every corner of the globe attend Canadian schools; simply acknowledging this multiculturalism isn’t good enough anymore. This educator asserts the need to move beyond a reciprocal appreciation of our differences toward an intercultural perspective that maximizes the social, emotional and academic potential of every student. We do this by fostering and teaching intercultural competence… the ability to effectively communicate with and learn from people of other cultures. This author introduces the Hope Wheel; an action oriented learning tool designed to support the development of respect, understanding, relationships and responsibility as students become interdependent travellers on the journey toward socio-cultural and academic competence. To help prepare our children for the realities of their future, and to function more productively within the realities of the present, educators must embrace the diversity of our world and do everything they can to help kids connect with and learn from each other.
The stories that resonate throughout this book illuminate the imperative for schools to embrace the diversity that is omnipresent in society. They are a call-out to everyone who works in a school to leverage the diversity schools represent as perhaps the most critical asset the education system possesses moving forward into the challenges of the future. I am including the opening to the story of chapter seventeen hoping that you will be encouraged to pick up a copy to hear the rest of it…
When I started teaching seventeen years ago, little did I know that my first job would have so much influence on my perspective toward culture, and in particular the concept of cultural diversity. I took a position teaching first and second grade at Tall Cree, an Indian reservation in the far north of Alberta, Canada. The community I taught at was remote; three hours of gravel roads after the pavement ended. I lived in a teacherage beside the school in the community that had no services, just houses, a school, a church and a Band Administration Office. I and four other teachers were the only non-Aboriginal people living in the community of about two hundred residents.
In Canada we are proud of the multicultural mosaic of people that make up the population of our vast country. I grew up learning and understanding that multiculturalism was a good thing. I was used to living among people representing cultures from around the globe, so why was I so anxious about living and teaching on this Indian reservation in my home province? I chalked it up to nerves surrounding my first teaching job, but deep down I knew it was more than that. Despite growing up immersed in a multicultural society, and near many Aboriginal communities, I was crazy nervous about actually living and interacting with these people whom I really knew nothing about at all.
I was about to realize that multiculturalism was not the positive conduit I thought it to be toward an understanding and culturally interdependent society. I was about to realize that a peaceful, understanding and culturally interdependent society depends on our willingness to engage each other, learn from each other and do everything we can to understand each other’s perspective.