The new child in my class that is about to arrive is from a country called Brunei. This country sits on the island of Borneo and is located on the north coast of Malaysia. The culture of Brunei is Malay and Islamic and is considered more conservative than Indonesia and Malaysia. Brunei’s official language is Malay but English is widely spoken as it is a compulsory subject in majority of the schools.
As a result of knowing the above, I would make sure that I:
- Know how to correctly pronounce the child’s name.
- I would read up on more information about the country, culture and the Islamic religion in Brunei and what are the general family dynamics.
- I would ensure that there are books in the classroom that the child could relate too, books that display diversity of religions and cultures.
- I would ensure that the above information I read and learn will be shared to the fellow teaching colleagues in my classroom and in my grade.
- I would prepare the children in my current class for the child’s arrival by reviewing our essential agreements of being kind, gentle, tolerant and respectful of others.
- Although the child may have a good level of English, I would also take the time to at least know a few words in the child’s mother tongue language, e.g. hello, goodbye, thank you, yes, no.
- Hopefully before the child comes to my classroom, I can have a sit down conversation with the parents, to find out more about the family, what they wish for their child and how best to make their child and them feel supported and welcomed, as well as what our expectations are for their child in our school.
I believe the above preparations will benefit and prepare myself and the staff around me to be more culturally sensitive, tolerant, respectful and open-minded. Furthermore it would prepare the parents and reassure them that their child will be well looked after in my school and classroom. It will also ensure them that we have their and their child’s interest at heart, which will create a clear, open and harmonious relationship for both parties from the beginning.
Having grown up and lived in South Africa for most part of my life and now Living in China for the last two years, I have certainly seen and witnessed oppression amongst those who are of a different skin colour or class. In China, there are many people who are becoming wealthier overnight, however what most people do not realise is that those Chinese people who live in rural areas are severely oppressed and looked down upon, especially when they migrate to the city to look for work and leave the family behind. The living conditions they live in are severely poor and neglected and the wages they earn are an embarrassment that companies should be ashamed and ask themselves if they could live like this too. To make it worse I came across a situation at school where a student in my class from the previous year was extremely rude to his bus buddy, which is the lady who takes care of the children to and from school on the bus. She is also a cleaner at our school and wants to earn extra money to pay for her daughter to go to university, so she asked if she could be a bus buddy too. Anyway this child that I had previously, who was taught by his father, who is German to treat Chinese people like pigs had turned around to her one day and said I am not listening to you on the bus, you are poor and dirty because you clean my toilet at school. Can you believe it?
As a result this kind cleaner and bus buddy, was hurt, upset and embarrassed that a child could say that and she certainly was not treated in an equitable manner by a child, which has learnt to treat Chinese people like this.
I on the other hand was certainly furious, disappointed and disgusted that this little boy said this and at the same time shameful that this white little boy who is a guest in her country, was so demeaning to a Chinese lady who is working hard to pay for her child through university.
I believe that in order for this incident to become an equitable one, if I was still this little boys teacher, I would call the parents in, explain that the behaviour in their child was unacceptable and question why he thinks that this is okay. I would also sit down with the child and explain that this attitude towards those who may be less fortunate than him is not okay and unacceptable too. I would ask the parents and the little boy to apologise to the cleaner/bus buddy lady.
If you were the teacher of this little boy, how would you handle this situation?
- What and/or who would have to change in order to turn this incident into an opportunity for greater equity?
As a result of living in China there are a number of microagressions I come across on a daily basis and likewise witness Chinese people coming across microagressions daily too.
China is very well-known for shopping and getting really good deals if you bargain. There is a shopping complex not far from my home that you can wheel and deal good bargains for almost next to nothing. I remember my first experience when going to this huge shopping complex, I was quite startled, irritated and taken aback when my friends and I were called “Hey missy come shop”. At one stage I looked at a lady and said “I am not missy, I am a lady.” When I think of the word “missy” I cringe and do not think of wonderful images of what a “missy” is and since I was a little girl was taught it is unkind and impolite to call someone a “missy” as in one of the languages in South Africa “missy” is a very derogative word.
When looking back at this happening to me many times whilst shopping I now laugh and every time I go shopping and I am told “Hey missy come shop” I reply ” Say lady, rather than missy” and most vendors do understand what I am saying. Having said that I perceive that microagression certainly comes from a place of supremacy, misconceptions, oblivion and a place of they don’t know any better. Therefore I believe that discrimination, prejudice and stereotyping come from these places too, however can be deliberate as well. I believe that in order for us to overcome discrimination, prejudice and stereotyping is through educating and correcting those around us in a gentle and kind manner to let them know that it is unacceptable, hurtful and to walk in the shoes of those who we criticize.