Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Building Diverse and Inclusive School Communities

Told in a series of well-researched, first-person narratives, Eileen Gale Kugler’s book, Innovative Voices in Education: Engaging Diverse Communities, stands out for its honest and multi-layered approach to building diverse and inclusive school communities.

Reading these essays, one is truly inspired by what schools, and all those who learn, teach, and work in them, can accomplish when diversity is treated as an asset – something not just to be explored or discussed on occasion, but engaged in every day. Because the voices of students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community organizers speak side-by-side, chapter by chapter, as a reader, you begin to see how none of them improve the climate for welcoming immigrant students and families in isolation. Indeed, individuals and groups invested in cultivating a pluralistic school environment are highly interdependent.  

Innovative Voices in Education implicitly calls on education stakeholders from teachers to administrators to reflect upon their norms and rituals and ask – how am I really meeting the needs of everyone in my class? In my school? And then it doesn’t just leave you wondering as so many other books do. It offers many examples of how powerful it is when individuals authentically reach out to understand someone from another culture they may have misunderstood and it extends best practices for meeting the needs of diverse schools in order to ensure that voices are not just heard but appreciated.  If the goal is to help every child succeed, this book helps practitioners move one step closer to it. 

We’ve selected a few excerpts to demonstrate the wide-range of speakers found in this comprehensive read. The insights offered by these authors strike a balance between inspiration and practicality. 

  • “At times, we did not reach out to faculty who might have helped us. But teachers themselves often gave us that extra little push or the occasional ‘How are you doing?’ ‘Great job’ or the interested questions about our culture and families. That made all the difference in terms of being able to talk about our problems or cope with them. Just the simple fact that these teachers were sensitive and sympathetic to what went behind the façade of a smiling and cheerful countenance, and that they did not make assumptions about immigrant students, in general, was sometimes enough.” – Waliha Gani and Shriya Adhikary, former high school students, “A Foot in Two Worlds”
  • “Asking questions is an important way to learn and we too often fear offending someone rather than asking the source. I have found a respectful question is usually very much appreciated.  It beats an assumption every time. A key is not to ask a question from your own perspective, but rather look to learning from theirs.” – Eileen Gale Kugler, editor, speaker and consultant, “Valuing the Individual by Breaking Through Assumptions”
  • “Immigrant families have different stories. They may have come to the United States with a stronger financial or educational background, or with a larger family already in the country; and with support and appropriate training, they are able to engage more in their children’s school. Some immigrant parents are able to become leaders within their communities or advocates for their families. They all require the support of schools, districts, and communities to assist them as they navigate American schools and to build their capacity as family and school leaders” – Young-chan Han, Family Involvement Specialist, Maryland Department of Education, “From Survivors to Leaders: Stages of Immigrant Parent Involvement in Schools” 
  • “Despite the message our culture sends us, it is not true that you are either a ‘girly girl’ or a ‘tomboy.’ If you are biracial, you do not have to choose between your black and white self. You do not have to be identified solely as an immigrant or completely shed your cultural and family heritage. Within each of us are multiple identities and truths. This was a complex concept for my elementary school students, who continued to struggle with this idea.  They either wanted the rules to be true or for there to be no rules at all.” – Sara Kugler, Teacher, “Addressing Silences: Creating a Space for Classroom Conversations That Matter to Students”

For more information about the book and Kugler’s work, please visit her author website here

A special 20% discount for the book is available from the publisher, Rowman & Littlefield, for a limited time until June 30th, 2015. Use the promo code RLEGEN15 when ordering either by phone at 1-800-462-6420 or directly from the publisher website

We invite book reviews written by teachers or students and we offer free lesson plans, resources, and grants to #teachimmigration. Stay connected! Follow us on twitter @ThnkImmigration and sign up to receive our newsletter.

1 comment:

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