By Lucía Osorio
Nursery Homeroom Teacher
Have you ever caught yourself saying your mom’s exact words? As a parent or educator, it is not uncommon to have that moment when you realize that you sounded just like your mom or dad. Regardless of your college or masters degree on childhood education, your first and most meaningful schooling on parenting or education was your childhood. What a big responsibility we have as parents and as teachers to be careful with our words and actions, knowing that someday these may influence and be repeated by a child that we care about.
During their early years, young children are learning how to deal with frustrations and social situations; they are learning new attitudes and techniques of control. This makes it extremely important for the teachers and parents who surround them to model appropriate and inclusive behavior. This is something that we have to be conscious about since inclusion wasn't necessarily something most of us gave much thought to during our early childhood. Chances are when you were growing up, people from different cultures, races, special needs, and disabilities were not something that you talked about with your parents or teachers. For many of us, the only advice given by our parents and teachers was not to stare or ask questions that might make someone uncomfortable. We did not grow up embracing differences, rather looking for people who were like us to be our friends.
I challenge you to take a moment to analyze your personal biases - both conscious and unconscious ones. Really dig deep, and think about your tone of voice, body language, words and actions towards different groups of people, whether they be a different age group, race, culture, socio-economic background, gender, or have special needs. Sometimes we may say the right words, but our body language or tone of voice might say something else, and all of this is perceived and learned by the children closest to us. If we really become aware and work hard on being inclusive, this will become something effortless for our children. This new generation of kids growing up in inclusive schools and communities will not be afraid or intimidated by differences. They will grow up embracing and respecting diversity and uniqueness. They will know that differences make us a better and stronger community. They will see past a person’s physical appearance, abilities, culture, gender or race and really SEE the person. It is all up to us. Are you the person that you want your children/students to become?