Michigan Education Association

Celebrating our uniqueness every day

We need to meet these wonderful challenges head on and look at them as privileges.

BY ROXANNE KLAUKA
Holt EA

Roxanne Klauka and her classI once received a bookmark with this quote: “We could learn a lot from crayons: some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, some have weird names, and all are different colors...but they all have to learn to live in the same box.”

It is all about variety and differences. What a wonderful thing to celebrate! I consider this as I think about cultural competency and diversity.

My four years at Elliott Elementary in Holt have been filled with many challenges and great learning moments in the area of diversity and cultural experiences.

My first year in teaching third grade, I had a Down syndrome child fully included. This proved to be a very important learning experience for me. I grew up in “corn country Indiana” and my thoughts on diversity and cultural ideals were basically racial in thought. I now learned that diversity didn’t come from cultural or racial backgrounds only, but by many other means.

A growing experience

We grew together as a learning com-munity and celebrated each other’s uniqueness and gifts. The year brought challenges as we got to know each other and discovered the methods that worked to bring about success, but it was worth every moment. The year will be memorable for us all.

It was heart-warming to see “my girl Emma” elected as treasurer of the student council in the fourth grade. The entire school was filled with joy and elated to be a part of listening to the election speech and the announcement of her winning the office of treasurer. How wonderful to be part of such a grand celebration.

Kyle’s life became a celebration for us

My second year proved to be just as diverse as I encountered a challenge of a different kind. A set of identical twins were both in my classroom, but one was healthy and one was fighting leukemia. I taught Kyle at home and in the hospital. At the same time, Hayden was learning at school as part of our classroom.

It was a challenge to bring a classroom of children through a time of grieving and to deal with a brother who was losing his identical twin. I came to know the importance of an education to a little boy with not much time. It became apparent to me once again that cultural differences and diversity encompass much more than just the norm that we consider.

A sick little boy became my challenge in diversity in this situation. Kyle February 19, 2009 us as he was so brave and was such an example to our school and to all who came in contact with him. I considered it a privilege to be a part of his life and to have been his teacher.

Honoring our cultural differences

Soon after Kyle died, another unique, diverse opportunity entered my classroom. A little boy from Korea appeared and our lives were once again enriched. Seung Hwan joined our learning family. He had a physical disability and walking was not easy for him. He used braces and a walker. His English was broken and it was not always easy to understand him.

What a wonderful cultural lesson I learned from him and his family. I shared several Korean meals with his family and we bonded immediately. My classroom embraced him warmly and the whole Elliott student body was moved by his smile and determination.

We shared in his successes and were all brought to tears as he received his medal at the end of the school year for finishing at the top of the mileage club challenge. He often came in with sweat dripping as he trudged around the track with the help of his walker. What an example he was to us all! Once again, I learned the power of celebrating cultural differences.

As I reflect on cultural competency in our classrooms, I find it to be so much more than just celebrating cultures and studying cultural holidays. Although I consider these important, we also need to celebrate our uniqueness every day.

A window of opportunity

We all bring such interesting characteristics into a classroom. I have begun to look at each ex-perience as a great open window through which I can view, reflect on and grow. I approach each diverse situation with awe and acceptance.

It has been my experience that each new challenge adds to my expertise and my life. I am a better teacher after experiencing each new life and diverse challenge with which I come in contact. We need to meet these wonderful challenges head-on and look at them as privileges. What a wonderful profession to be a part of.

Roxanne Klauka teaches third grade at Elliott Elementary School in Holt.

 

Updated: February 19, 2009 6:14 PM