Diversity and Difference in Early Childhood Education
My first awareness of racial identity and diversity occurred when I was in Year 3. Having being raised acknowledging acceptance of people of racial or cultural difference my thoughts of children of colour were positive and impartial. However, one day a boy in my class of Sri Lankan descent got into trouble with another student, but only the Sri Lankan boy was asked to go to the principal’s office. During our lunch break he came over to a group of us and told us that he thought he was the one that got into trouble ‘because he was ‘black’’. I remember thinking to myself, ‘why would he get into trouble just because he was black?’ It was in fact that both boys went to the principal’s office, just on separate occasions. This was my first memory of someone thinking that they were being singled out or getting into trouble due to belief of skin colour dissimilarity and racial stereotypes. I’ve been aware of racial diversity ever since. Now that I have an opportunity to be a part of children’s learning and development I want to learn more about diversity and make a difference in children’s perspectives of themselves and others.
As educators in early childhood, it is crucial that we acknowledge and respect that children’s personal, family and cultural histories shape their learning and development. The increase in racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity in educational centres is reflected in many early childhood classrooms. Although the diverse composition of early childhood classrooms may bring challenges, it also introduces many opportunities for educators, parents, and children as we need to value and appreciate difference and variety as a positive attribute in all educational and social environments (Ashman and Elkins 2008).
As adults, being ‘different’ is a decision to make a personal statement; such as deciding to change a hairstyle, get a tattoo or by wearing...