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Running head: Bechara-Reflective Assignment #2

Samantha Bechara

UC San Diego Extension CLAD through CTEL

EDUC 31217: Culture and Inclusion

Reflective Assignment #2
Bechara-Reflective Assignment #2 1

Throughout my life experiences, I have noticed a shift in multiculturalism in education.


Gay (2004) states people from different ethnic, racial, and cultural groups live in close
proximity. But coexistence does not mean that people create genuine communities in which they
know, relate to, and care deeply about one another (p.30). Reflecting on Gay (2004), I reflected
back to a large shift in my own perspectives and beliefs following September 11, 2001. Prior to
the attacks on September 11th, I did not have a large exposure to a variety of Middle Eastern
countries or the Muslim religion. Where I grew up, there were few Muslim students and other
than the general idea and mention of the term Muslim, it was not widely addressed. We learned
explicitly about Christianity and Judaism, which reflected the dominant culture in the
community. Schools introduced a variety of European, Hispanic, and Asian cultures throughout
my schooling, as this is where our ancestors were from. My parents and grandparents were very
open about our familys genogram, and the school allowed continuous exploration about
individual family history throughout multiple projects. Up until this point, we rarely focused on
the Middle East. Geographically I knew the area but did not know much else.
On September 11, 2001, I remember sitting in my 8th-grade math course when I along
with many others were called immediately down to the school's auditorium to meet our School
Counselor. When I entered the auditorium the news was on and watched the second plane go into
the World Trade Center, the place my father worked. Although my father survived the attack,
many family members, friends, and neighbors did not. Watching these events unfold personally
raised fear for me personally of the unknown. As stated by Gay (2004), these unfamiliar groups,
cultures, traditions, and language produce anxieties, hostilities, prejudices, and racist behaviors
among those who do not understand p. 30. Following the attacks, my school was canceled due
to the large impact to our community and I was angry. Like many, I overgeneralized the actions
of a few to an entire culture. When coming back to school, my social studies teacher Mr. Schulz
shifted his teaching toward raising unbiased awareness about the Middle East, and the Muslims
religion. He, along with many other teachers arranged for guest speakers to discuss the Middle
Eastern culture and the Muslim faith. Instead of allow the fear instilled upon our shaken
community to continue, he addressed it head on and had those difficult to talk about
conversations suggested by Cullinan (n.d) My family, in addition followed suit discussing our
thoughts openly about the events and what this would mean for my older brother a Marine
stationed in Germany. It was these additional opportunities for structured discussion that
changed my perspective of cultural awareness.
Bechara-Reflective Assignment #2 2

As suggested by Cullinan, Mr. Schulz taught me to examine how I think about, and act
toward others. Today, I am married to a first generation Lebanese American. The cultural
perspectives my husband and his family have provided me over the last ten years have further
challenged my understanding of differences and culture. My extended family continues to teach
me new things, provide me with new experiences, and expand my cultural understanding. I am
continuously learning new things about cultures globally and individual differences n culture.
The diversity of culture interests me and encourages me to expand my cultural awareness and
exposure to try new things, meet new people, and grow as an individual, which is essential for
educators as mentioned by Garcia (2002).
These examined life principals have influenced the diversity in the individuals I call
friends and the diverse learners I teach. As an early childhood special educator, I have worked
closely with the families of my students. Prior to coming to California, I was an early
interventionist in Maryland providing services to families in their home or community as well as
hosting playgroups and structured transitional classes at my school. Often the familys homes,
local stores/restaurants were my classroom in addition to my shared traditional classroom.
Working so closely with the families of my students changed my overall awareness about
culture. I worked with a diverse population of children from a variety of cultural backgrounds,
and socioeconomic classes. Living and working in a predominately military community, also
provided new reference points into life circumstances, environmental factors and the importance
of remaining open minded.
Often, my own cultural understanding and experience as a young Caucasian married
female without were challenged. My own personal understanding of being a military spouse
provided for an additional understanding of military culture on top of the families own culture
and dynamic. I had the unique opportunity to work for brief periods with transient students
visiting from China, Japan, Italy, in addition to military service members from other countries
such as Ghana. Regardless of my own experience, being observant, allowing for open
communication, and sharing a common goal of the child allowed for trust to be established.
Navigating working with children four months to five-years-old and their families provided a
greater understanding of the impact culture has on raising children. The familys goals and
priorities for their child drove my collaboration with each individual family as well as built
mutual trust. In addition, being open to individual family differences, traditions, beliefs, and
perspectives allowed me the unique opportunity to work along side the family toward growth
instead of against them. My experiences as an early interventionist have provided me a greater
Bechara-Reflective Assignment #2 3

understanding of working collaboratively with a family for the same goals and determining the
family priorities. These family priorities enhance the growth and development of my students.
Working with families I become ultra aware of how I communicate non-verbally. For
example, not showing disgust in a very dirty trailer home although, I may feel it and learning
how to respectfully decline homemade meals offered due to my own dietary restrictions. Self-
reflection in my own teaching practices as well as seeking out feedback from the families I work
with and other colleges have allowed continuous evaluation about my teaching. Often I would
ask families about their thoughts about their childs growth, concerns, tips provided from our last
session, and about how I could better support them as a family. I would touch base in person
face-to-face, follow up about concerns via email or phone conversation and welcomed feedback
of any kind. There were times it was difficult to hear the negative feedback from families
without becoming defensive, however, the ability to take constructive feedback I believe allowed
for new opportunities with families. In Maryland a large population of my
students were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, as autism was only briefly discussed in
my teacher preparation program I sought out to obtain more training to better serve my students.
The coursework provided additional resources I was able to share with families, and strategies
and techniques to try when working one-on-one with the child and coaching the family to
support their childs learning. I continue to find this coursework eye opening and I continue to
complete the program today.
In addition to collaboration with parents, I feel collaboration with other colleges is
essential. Consulting with other professionals and discussing new strategies, approaches, or ideas
when working with students has been one of my greatest assets. During my most recent position
as a Head Start Teacher, I had 3 new students start in my classroom (mid school year) all from
Mexico. My co-teacher is an immigrant from Mexico providing support to the child as well as
myself in understanding the cultural differences and adapt to his first school-learning
environment. As stated by Delpit (1995), classroom learning should be structured so that not
only are these children able to acquire the verbal patterns they lack, but they are also able to
strengthen their proficiencys (p. 57). By having two educators that can communicate with the
child in a variety of modalities, the new learners were able to adjust to their new learning
environments with supports from language models as well as peers that shared common
languages. Working with a large Spanish population, I have signed up to take Spanish courses
starting in the fall to further understand and express myself in Spanish. I believe this coursework
Bechara-Reflective Assignment #2 4

will allow me to help the English Language Learners and families I work with make connections
and further my cultural understanding.
Understanding the impact of culture on education is significant to improving academic
success and achievement of young students. As an Early Childhood Special Educator, I believe I
have an important job to set the foundation for learning for future growth. Providing an accepting
learning environment for both children and families to participate is my ultimate goal. In order to
provide my students the best education, I know I must promote multiculturalism in my classroom
and continue to develop my own cultural understanding of diversity. This CLAD program will
provide a wealth of information, tools, and strategies, however; it will be my job to implement
these tools to fidelity to meet the educational needs of all students.

References

Cullinan, C. (n.d). Vision, privilege, and the limits of tolerance.

Delpit, L. (1995). Other peoples children: Cultural conflict in the classroom. New York: The

New Press

Garcia, E. (2002) - Student cultural diversity: Understanding and meeting the challenge (3rd

Edition). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Gay, G. (2004). The importance of Multicultural education. Educational Leadership/ , 30-35.