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When addressing issues of social justice and equality, educators should value the time in their hands, look closer at the space they have organized and materials that is set up in the classroom. It is important to keep in mind that discussions around racism, fairness and genders may not pop up at convenient times such as during circle. Allowing for flexibility in the routine is crucial for children and the adults in the room. As such, if a question such as “Why is your hair curly and stuck to your head? I have straight pretty hair and you don’t” arises on the way to the classroom after outdoor play time; educators should give their direct and immediate attention to the question, and make time for discussing possible answers to the question. If it is ignored and children are immediately asked to sit for lunch as they have no time to waste, the educators have now left the children to find answers for themselves which might likely relate to biases they are exposed in their social world.
In relation to space, as Fleer (2003) states, it is important to reconsider the way we have “organized the spaces and the way we have created traditional areas such as the block corner, the home corner or the outdoor area” (Fleer, 2003, p.) For instance, a drama centre can be set up as a doctor’s office by including a white abled doll with tools right around it. However, this does not show efforts of promoting social justice and representing everyone in our society. Thus, the inclusion of racially diverse dolls, wheelchairs with dolls who may not have limbs, crutches, multicultural clothing, books that represent doctors of all genders and racial backgrounds, is a far more effective way of promoting diversity and social justice in classrooms.
Additionally, bringing in books of other languages and having a parent or educator read it in both English and the other language is a great way of helping children understand concepts of language. Through this activities questions such as “Where do people learn to speak differently? Why do they? Why can’t I speak like that? How can I learn to speak another language?” may arise. These are excellent opportunities to help children view other speakers as non-threatening and very much like English speakers.
Similarly, when addressing race and culture, educators should look to the materials in their classroom to ensure that various cultural groups are represented. For instance, the book shelf should present all racial and ethnic groups equally. If the educator occasionally chooses to read a book about a specific ethnic background with intensions of promoting diversity, the children will still see this particular ethnic group as ‘outsiders’ due to most of the books on the shelf having pictures of the white majority. Thus, if the environment, space and materials contains images based on White or White norms, this would reinforce the idea that groups other than Whites are the exception, not the norm and communicated to children that some groups are more valuable than others.
Hence the preschool environment must be arranged in ways it will create a sense of inclusion, acceptance, and help the children see a better world through the lens of diversity, social justice and equity.
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