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Wendy Lafferty
Cultural Autobiography
Professor Bruewer
18 December 2015

Multicultural education is something that can make or break the

education of an individual. As an instructor, it is important to not only be

educated in this area, but also to make sure that these issues will not
negatively affect my future students due to my multicultural incompetence.
Understanding and accepting that each studentregardless of race, religion,
gender, ethnicity, a human being, and it is my job, my privilege to
teach them and to help them succeed. This kind of cultural competence is
not possible without conscious thought, and unfortunately, many teachers
fail to do so. The work, Foundations for Becoming Culturally Competent,
states that, Most teachers regularly, although unknowingly, discriminate
against culturally different students by lacking the sensitivity, knowledge,
and skills necessary to teach them properly (5). Human beings, by nature,
tend to be partial to things they know, and timid around things which they do
not. As a prospective teacher, I have learned that the first step toward being
a true multicultural educator is self-awareness. I must explore and
understand myselfmy experiences, my strengths, my weaknesses, and
everything in betweento be able to step out of my comfort zone and have
the ability to truly meet the individual, unique needs of my students.
The town I grew up in was very small, and had very little diversity. The
people were generally quite close-knit, and small-town politics ran the town.
One of the first things I noticed growing up in the area was that in order to be
fully accepted into the community, your family either had to have money, or
they had to become friends with the right people. My family did neither one,
so from a very young age, I went through school as an outsider. I had my
group of outsider friends and we did outsider things together, but I

remember I always secretly wanted to hang out with the popular group. The
second thing I noticed from going to school at Rockville was that generally
speaking, everyone looked pretty much the sameaside from obvious
physical differences. We had no one of a different ethnicity until I got to high
school and we had foreign exchange students; we had two black students in
the entire schooljunior high and high school combined; we had no teachers
who were not white. Rockville Elementary School and Rockville Jr. Sr. High
School was not a safe place to go if you were different. I knew this from day
one. Up until after the eighth grade, I remained fairly quiet and reserved
hoping to dissolve in the background just to avoid being different. If you
know me now, you know that simply is not at all who I am. Its crazy to look
back at who I was then and admit that just being in that kind of culture really
affected my ability to blossom that much. Eighth grade was a big deal in my
multicultural development because for the first time in my life, I did not
attend school in Rockville, Indianaor even the United States for that matter.
Over the summer going into that year, my family was in one of its lowest
points financially that I can remember. My mom was frantically and
desperately looking for more, better paying jobs online. During her search,
she found an email titled, Want to Teach Medical Transcription Overseas?
She opened the email, read all the details, and decided that she would love
to teach her profession of 25 years on a Caribbean island! So she filled out
the application, and within the week, she was accepted for the position!
Since we lived in a small one-bedroom apartment, I very clearly heard her

scream of excitement: Wendy, we are going to Barbados! And, just to add
another portrayal of my lack of cultural knowledge, I replied, Whats that?
That next school year, I not only learned what and where Barbados was, but I
also got to live there, go to school there, and experience life in a way that I
never even thought existed. This experience was the first of many that
pulled me out of my shell and transformed me into who I am today.
Going to school and living in Barbados allowed me to not only
experience different ways of living and different types of people, and a
completely different education system, but it also gave me a fresh start in
establishing who I was, and who I wanted to become as a person. I no longer
had to blend into the background or be afraid to let my voice be heard.
During the eight months I was I Barbados, I made more friends and more
memories than I had my entire life in Rockville
Attending school in Barbados allowed me to interact and make friends
with people from all sorts of different families, backgrounds, and cultures.
The school I attended was private, so I got to interact with all sorts of
nationalities not just those from Barbados. There were people from
England, Africa, different Caribbean Islands, the Middle East, and more. The
amount of diversity I received there was great! I loved not only hearing them
tell me stories and ideas of things they grew up with, but I also loved seeing
the interest and engagement on their faces when I told them of mine. We
would have long conversations about our backgrounds and where we came
from. All of us were intrigued with each other. Especially as an 8th grader,

racism, prejudice, fear of things different from me, were not by any means
scary or threatening. I though it just made not only the experience cooler,
but also the friendships exciting. And, I still use these experiences as
references todayall the time. Another thing that I experienced in Barbados
was the opportunity to see what it was like to attend not only an all girls
school, but also one which required uniforms. This concept is not only
different from ours, but also frowned upon by many. Getting that opportunity
really opened my eyes, made me curious, and made me more accepting. My
friends were my friends both black and white and I loved them for them.
That was truly amazing to meespecially coming from a town that literally
did the opposite.
My experience in Barbados exposed me to so many different aspects of
life. However, there are still some areas of myself which I am still working on.
One of my biggest prejudices probably comes from my experiences with
religion. This sounds awful I know. However, I think a lot of this is bitterness
bitterness which I am working on getting over. Religion, in my family, in a
lot of my friends families, and my community, was an issue. And I am not
just talking about religion in its ideal sense. I am referring to a kind of
zealousness that tears families apart, tears friends apart, and causes hatred
on so many different levels all due to differences in religion. In my
experiences, I simply could not understand why something which was
supposed to help so much and be so personal and positive was forced upon
others people in a way which preached hatred, negativity, and judgment.

Many people, including myself, were judged for being different so much that
they felt alone and stranded; and it played a huge role in our schools, our
politics, and even our businesses. This, again, turned into another instance in
my town where if you were different, you had to keep quiet, or else be cast
out. This just did not settle well with me. So, I have noticed that sometimes
when I interact with people who are referring to their religion I catch myself
just smiling and nodding sometimes not truly being concerned with what
they are saying. I instantly feel a part of me refer to my negative experiences
remembering the pain and suffering that was caused out of love, or
preaching, or concern. I am realizing that there are all different beliefs and
that they are all personal for them, my experiences are not the norm.
Religion, just like anything else in life, is something that can do so much
good for people and for the world, but when taken to the extreme, can also
do a lot of harm. I just happened to be exposed to its negativities. I know
that by treating people in this way, I am doing exactly the same thing which I
have been so bitter about, and when I am teaching students, acting in this
way will do nothing but harm their educational experience.
Another issue that I see with religion is the fact that it is always
assumed that people are religiousin one way or another. However, that is
not the case, and in the classroom, it can be a dangerous assumption. After
the article, One Nation, Many Gods, an anonymous comment was made in
response to the topics discussed regarding religion in schools. The comment
brought up the point that, You can teach religious tolerance all day long,

and people will still be intolerant of those who choose not to have religion
(Anonymous). For some people, it is hard to recognize that a person does not
have a religion. Even those who are not really dedicated to religious
practices usually just claim the blanket title, Christian. Some, though, simply
do not believe in a deity at all. In general, our culture does not take these
people into consideration, and the classroom is no different. One issue I see
with religion in schools is that the lack of religion is never broached. It is
often assumed that people go to church; blanket religious statements are
thrown out without thought; overall, atheism is not really considered a true
option. For an atheist who believes what they believe for reasons that they
hold dear, this simply is not fair. Their lack of belief is just as true to them as
a religious person's faith. In a classroom where these presumptions are
claimed, the ideal "safe place for all students," has just been shattered. The
atheist in the classroom does not feel comfortable, nor do they feel safe, to
state what he believes because it has already been portrayed to him or her
that such beliefs are not accepted or tolerated in the classroom. To be a true
multicultural educator in every aspect of religion, atheism must be an option,
because these people do, indeed, exist, and they deserve to feel just as
involved and accepted as any other religion.
As an instructor, I know that I am going to come into contact with a lot
of different religionswhether from the students, the school board, or even
the parents. I also know that a lot of the issues that I have encountered
earlier in life will not go away, and they must be handled in a positive,

encouraging way. One of the directors interviewed in the article, One Nation,
Many Gods, makes the statement, Schools are the one place where all
[different] religions meet. It follows that religious diversity must be dealt with
in school curriculum if we are going to learn to live together (Kilman, 32).
Acceptance, tolerance, empathy, and understanding for every human being
is what I think being a multicultural educator is about. My classroom will be
safesafe for all religions, or those without religion.
When discussing the topic of race in the classroom, I often see people
get defensive or anxious. Even I did. I remember people would make a
comment about racism, and I would instantly reply with, Im not racist. Most
of my friends from Barbados were black! However, I truly did not take
several things into account. One thing I missed was what I discussed earlier
in this paper. My friends were my friends both black and white and I
loved them for them. So, the fact that I proved my lack of racism with the
fact that my friends were black did not make sense with this statement,
since I loved them for them, not just despite the fact that they were black.
Looking at this now, I can clearly see that I was ill-informed on the concept of
racism (and actually many forms of prejudice). What I did not consider was
my differences in thinking about people of different races. It did not concern
me at the time that when I thought of black people, my mind flooded with
stereotypes and stigmas (whether good or bad) that were usually associated
with colored individuals. I know now that such preconceived ideas can, and

often do, change the way teachers teach and interact with their students.
This fact can ultimately hinder their entire education.
In the article, Race: Some Teachableand Uncomfortable Moments, by
Heidi Tolentino, told the story of an encounter she had with her students
when teaching about multiculturalism. While the instructors students were
working on a simulation activity, one of the students made the statement, I
want to know what it was like [to be black]. Immediately after this, an
African American student from across the room gave a snarky response, You
can never know what its like. You can never know what its like to be black. I
also dont understand why white people always say I want to know what
youre feeling and what it feels like. You dont want to know what it feels like
to walk down the street and have white women clutch their purses. You dont
want to know what its like to be different every single day. You cant want to
know because its horrible, (Tolentino). This conversation showed me
something about racism that I had never thought about before. From the
students response, it was obvious that she noticed the little differences in
the ways people responded to herjust because she was black. It was not
like she was openly discriminated against, or called names, or beaten, or
enslaved (like what most people, and even I at one time, consider racism
today). She just noticed how people reacted differently to her. When I read
this, I just thought to myself, What if that white woman who clutched her
purse had been her teacher? That student would have noticed, and the
interaction, the learning, the education, would have been ruined just

because of the fact that the teacher could not see that student as anyone
but a black stereotype. Or, for more realistic purposes, what if instead of
clutching her purse, the instructor talked to her as if she were stupid, or
assumed that she came from a lower socio-economic status. That would be
just as harmful to the student.
Coming from such a small, culturally sheltered town, my experiences
with different ethnicities has been pretty limited. Up until high school when
we had foreign exchange students, I had never even encountered a a
student who had a language barrier. Even in while in Barbados I did not have
to experience a change that drastic. The people of Barbados spoke English
so it was not that drastic. However, there were some detailed challenges that
I faced while in Barbados. One was the difference in dialect and slang.
Though they were technically speaking English, I remember I had a hard time
understanding what some of my teachers and classmates were saying just
because they talked so much faster, and enunciated their words less than I
was used to. I was constantly asking them to slow down, and responding to
what they told me with, Im sorry, could you repeat that? My friends and
instructors handled it well, and we even made light of the situation. The fact
that all of my peers and and instructors were so accepting an light-hearted
when handling my language transition really helped me not only understand
the academic material, but it also helped me feel much more comfortable
and accepted in the environment overall. Another area involving language in
Barbados that I had to adjust to was the difference in spelling grammar that

exist between the American standard English and the European standard
English. There are certain words that we spell differently in America, such as
favorite vs. favourite and apologize vs. apologise. There were even
grammatical differences such as the fact that they do not use the Oxford
comma. My instructors in Barbados were extremely understanding and
patient with my transition to these differences, and as a student I was
extremely grateful to all of the professors. These are exactly the qualities I
plan to expand toward my students as well. I understand that language
barriers are tough on students in multiple ways. By reacting patiently and
respectfully to these students, they will be much more easily and efficiently
be able to learn and thrive in my classroom.
I have had first-hand with dealing with disability since I had the
capacity to do so. My father has brain damagehe has ever since I was born.
When he was a teenager, he got in a car with a drunk driver and got into a
severe accident. He was pronounced dead on the scene, and most physical
therapists and psychiatrists told him over and over that he would never go
anywhere or do anything in his life without professional help. They told him
that there was no way he would go to college, get married, or have kids.
With the severity of his brain damage, these professionals gave up
expecting him to do the same. He obviously did not, though. My dad used
every single one of these doubts and negative comments as a challenge, and
I see him as nothing short of amazing, and ultimately, inspirational. My
fathers situation is a prime example of not only the fact that disabilities can,

indeed, be overcome, but also the fact that it is not up to any professional to
determine an individuals potential. No, these professionals did not stop my
dad from doing everything he wanted to do in life, but could they have
helped him do more if they had given him a chance? Ill never know for sure,
but I certainly can learn from this constant ambiguity, and I can vow to never
do that to my students. People with disabilities are still people, still learners,
still human beings capable of accomplishing great things.
Teaching dance was another instance where I gained experience
working with individuals who had disabilities. I have worked with several kids
with disabilities. I taught clogging for a long time in my teen years, and I
dealt with things like autism, ADD, ADHD, and even physical illness such as
cystic fibrosis. When working with these students, I had to make sure that I
took their disabilities into consideration when explaining and demonstrating
material, choosing and choreographing routines, and even choosing music. I
found that the students paid attention and learned much more when I chose
songs they really enjoyed. And, when they were more motivated and excited
to learn it, it showed in their performance. As an instructor, it was really nice
to see the students thriving and having fun while doing so.
Difference in ability was also something that I had to pay close
attention to when I taught something such as dance. I made sure to
choreograph routines that would be realistic for the students to do, while at
the same time challenging and stimulating. I always observed my students
to make sure that they were catching on, and if they were not, I either made

modifications or I worked diligently with them until they felt confident. I have
also had students who did exceptionally well when teaching clogging. I
remember when my god sister decided to start clogging. Watching her first
lesson with our clogging instructor, I instantly saw that she had a lot of drive
and potential. I saw her exceptional talents and motivations, and I instantly
wanted to help guide her to meet her full potential. After drawing this
conclusion, I began going over to her house to work with her everyday that
summer. I worked with her privately, focusing on accelerating her growth
through one-on-one intensive lessons. She and I grew even closer than we
were before, and she flew miles in her dancing. Just from that one summer,
that girl went from a beginning level to about upper-intermediate level. And,
her passion grew along with her ability. Having had the experience to teach
students with this vast gap in abilities has given me a lot of personal
example on how I might approach handling it in my classroom as well. When
I became in charge of leading rehearsals, I used my knowledge of my
students to divided my students into groups based on level. When they
moved up a level, we made sure each student got recognized for it, and
when they got up to the highest level, we gave them opportunities to teach
others, to choreograph their own routines, to work on improvisation, and
even to compete in clogging competitions throughout the area to make sure
that they were always being challenged and encouraged to keep pushing
themselves and improving.

My whole life, I have been much on the lower end of the socio
economic status. My family has always struggled financially. With my dad
being disabled, he could only get a certain amount from his Social Security
Disability, and my mom has always worked a lotusually for two or three
different companies at a time. On July 27, 2004, our finances got even worse.
Around 10:00 that morning, after my mom and I had left to take me to meet
my clogging instructor, our dryer exploded and our house burned down
leaving us flat. The house was uninsured, and despite our desperate efforts,
we just could not afford to keep it up. The bank took the house, and we have
bounced around from rental to rental ever since. Around town, my family was
notoriousmeaning to my peers and classmates, so was I. Despite these
struggles, though, I had a lot of help and support. My clogging instructor had
always been there for me--emotionally, mentally, and financially. The way he
did what he could to not only help me succeed in clogging, but also in every
other aspect of life was inspiring, and it ultimately allowed me to have many
of the opportunities that helped shape me into the person I am today. Having
a role model like that has shown me what impact I could have on my future
students as well.
I have also had experience with people from upper socioeconomic
statuses. Many of my friends came from very well-off families, and were
much more involved in the community. I could blend with both, because I
was accepting, I understood that where they came from did not make them
good or bad people, and I accepted that even I, myself, was worth more than

the situation from which I came. I had a loving family who did everything
they could for me; I found escapes through dance and music so that my
distance from the community and lack of financial support did not tear me
down. I feel as though I have a very strong sense of understanding and
accepting for all different social classes, and I am prepared to be there for
my students.
Another issue that is often encountered is the issue with homosexual
individuals. Same-sex relationships were not viewed positively in my town.
With the vast majority of the population being conservative and extremely
zealous, the attitude toward homosexuals and transgendered individuals was
quite obviously negative. The people in schoolteachers and students-dropped derogative slurs all the time and called out those who they believed
were questioning their sexuality. Most people from my school who were
homosexual did not come out until they had either graduated or moved
schools, just to avoid the negativity that came from the community. My best
friend was just one of many. I had known this guy since we were in second
grade. The thing that shocked me was that not only did he wait to come out
publicly, but he was even afraid to tell me, his best friend! To me, that shows
intense fear. And, it is this fear that my students will never, ever have to
endure. I have educated myself with the topic of homosexuality as much as I
couldincluding a class that I am enrolled in right now. This class highlights
many ways in which even the people using the bible to preach against
homosexuality are ill-informed, and casting people out for a reason which

they do not understand. And by doing this, they are doing much more
damage than hurting their feelings, or making them feel unaccepted or
stranded. On top of these heartbreaking outcomes, these people are also
denied the quality of education that they not only have a right to, but that
they also deserve. Taking these steps and seeing the negative experiences
that others have gone through due to their sexuality has opened my eyes to
the topic overall, and I will make sure that my classmate is safe for all
Gender disparities in classrooms are more common than many people
like to admit, and if not approached correctly, can be detrimental to the
education of any student. It is far too common in classrooms to see
predetermined expectations, roles, and behaviors for students based solely
upon their genders, and such stereotypical ideas are dangerous to the wellbeing and successes of the studentsboth male and female. The lack of
concern for these issues is especially apparent when looking closely at the
disparities in educational patterns among students of different genders. The
article, Nonsexist, Culturally Inclusive Instruction, points out that,
Differential teacher expectations and interactions with female and male
students help explain why gifted girls are less likely to exhibit commitment to
careers, even though they make better grades than boys, and why the selfesteem of college women in mixed-sex schools declines throughout their
academic careers, (56). It is important, of course, for teachers to be able to
recognize the biological differences that exist between male and female

students, but it is just as important that they do not use this knowledge to
hold them to different standards based solely upon these differences. Not all
boys are boisterous and distracted, just as not all girls are extremely
studious or vain. These stereotypes are ultimately harmful to both sexes,
both academically, socially, and emotionally.
When I was younger, religion played a pretty big role in our household.
I was raised as an Assembly of God Christian. They are known for their
zealousness and their radical views on accepted behaviors. When I was
younger, I was not allowed to listen to anything but Christian music, I could
not miss church on Sunday, we prayed before every meal, etc. It was very
intertwined in my upbringinguntil my parents divorced going into 4th grade.
After their divorce, all the rules became unmentioned, and it just became
something that we did not talk about much anymore. Some of that, I think,
had to do with the churchs reactions to the divorce of my parents. When the
church heard this, the pastor lectured my mother about how what she was
doing was biblically condemned. The congregation dropped judgmental, bold
comments about not only the fact that my mother was sinning, but also that
she was going to ruin her children for splitting up our family. What I also
remember, though, is that even as a fourth grader, I was more realistic about
the situation than the members of the church. I understood at the time what
was happening, and I honestly was not even upsetother than the initial
fear that my dad would be alone. However, even that was not an issue. Even
after the divorce, my parents remained best friends. My mom would help him

out, and he would help her, and together, they helped my sister and me in
more ways than I could count. My parents made much better friends than a
coupleeven I could see that, and I felt like if anyone had more right to be
upset about it, it was me not the members of the church. We found a way to
be a happy, functional family in a way which to most people was bizarre. I
think that is amazing.
After I got back from Barbados, I had a period of exploration. During
that time, I was a resettling into my routine in Rockville schools, I was
returning to dance and taking more dance classes at a dance studio that my
clogging instructor encouraged me to attend, and I was rebuilding
relationships with my friends and family. While existing in these events
physically, emotionally I was in sort of a strange placeone which is actually
quite difficult for me to explain. Unhappy is not the right word, but I wouldnt
exactly say that I was happy either. I felt unsettledkind of like a stage of
metaphorically floating, taking things as they came, acceptance for what
was. Something, though, just was not there. On June 25, 2010 at around
10:00 am, my floaty stage turned into something with much more
definition, much more purpose. That morning, I fell out of a tree and broke
my backmiraculously not killing or paralyzing myself. That fear, that
closeness to death, forced me to make the decision to stop blindly accepting
things as they were, to stop allowing things that I could not control run my
life, because it was the lack of control of my body that had me in that
situation in the first place. After my accident, I began to take more control of

my life and what I wanted out of it. I pushed to excel in dance, I pushed to
excel in school, I pushed to excel in music, and I pushed to take a stand and
make myself known to my peers, my school, and my community. Being
invisible was no longer an option, and just existing just was no longer
enough. From that point on, I decided that I was going to make a difference
in one way or another because the thought of me dying, or being paralyzed
and having nothing to show for it just did not settle well with me. My
recovery was a long, grueling process, but it was one that I would not trade
for anything. This soul-searching, this drastic leap out of my comfort zone, is
what ultimately drove me to want to teach, to want to make a difference, to
want to want to be something great.
Another thing that enhanced this attitude was the death of my
clogging instructor when I was a junior in high school. As I mentioned earlier,
this man is one of the few opportunities that I had growing up. My family
struggled financially, I was from a small, sheltered town, I did not have much
in the way of consistency at home. My clogging instructor gave me this
through dance. My family could not afford to enroll me in dance lessons, but
my clogging instructor saw not only potential, but also my passion for dance.
So, he took me under his wing, and treated me as his own child. This man
paid for my dance lessons at a studio in Charleston, Illinois, along with my
gas to get there. Once he passed, I continued to take lessons at the same
studio up until the day that I graduated. I got a job, my parents helped in
whatever way they could, my studio worked with me on the finances, and I

developed an addiction to coffee in order to function and keep up to the
standards that I had not only placed upon myself, but also so that all of the
devotion and dedication that my clogging instructor had invested in my
dancing was carried out until the very end.
Looking back at who I was, what I have experienced, and who I have
become actually says a lot about how my home life, my school life, and even
my extra curricular life has worked together to create who I am and how I
function now. In high schoolspecifically referring to who I was after my
accident because the event truly did change every aspect of my entire being
I loaded my schedule with as much as I could to avoid having free, wasted
time. I took dance an hour and a half away from where I lived five days a
week, I was taking three AP classes, I was in an activist group called VOICE, I
was a member of a political organization called OFA, I was on my high school
dance team, I was active in band, and I was the manager of the tennis team.
I made myself known and appreciated to my teachers and classmateseven
though I was not considered popular or completely accepted. At school, I
gave myself a voice, even if it was not necessarily the voice that the
students at Rockville Jr. Sr. High school wanted to hear, and I did so despite
the instability and inconsistency that I had become so accustomed to at
home. It actually almost seemed as though I seemed more at home within
all of my involvements than I did at my own house. The article, Students
Multiple Worlds: Navigating the Borders of Family, Peer, and School Cultures,
explores the ways in which students transition between their home and

school lives. The authors of this article found that, For some students,
family, peer, or school worlds are different (with respect to culture, ethnicity,
socioeconomic status, or religion), thereby requiring adjustment and
reorientation as movement between context occurs (Phelan, Davidson, &
Yu, 65). As a student, the home that I created or experienced for myself was
one which played a huge role in who I was and how I perceived things around
me; however, it was also an aspect of who I was that I shut out while at
school. I did not talk about my home situation much while around my
teachers or peers. My school life, my home life, and even my life in all of my
extracurricular involvements, were three separate things to me. [My]
perception of borders between worlds [did] not prevent [me] from managing
crossings or adapting to different settings (Phelan, Davidson, & Yu, 65). As
described in the article, my Typology of Adaptation allowed me to adapt
completely, conforming to mainstream patterns of academic and social
interaction while at school hiding aspects of [my] home [life] that
differentiat[ed] [me] from the majority of [my] peers, (65).
My individuality is something that I have learned to develop over time,
in response to the unique experiences and circumstances that I have
endured throughout my life. My constant financial stress and inconsistency
has given me the ability to understand that not everyone is under the same
set of obstacles, and that sometimes the cards are not dealt in the favor of
every person. This, though, has also shown me that it does not have to be
the factor that determines student success. My relationship with my clogging

instructor has opened my eyes to the amount of inspiration and influence
that an instructor can have on the student. Someone who was in no way
related to me, who was not by any means obligated to help me in the ways
that he did, and quite honestly, one who did what he did purely out of the
goodness of his heart rather than the quality of his pay, played one of the
biggest roles in my lifeespecially the inspiration and motivation to teach.
As a student, I know what it is like to have an instructor invest so much that
the only thing worse than not personally succeeding was the thought of
letting them down. As a prospective teacher, I remember something about
him light up when I was excelling, when I was happy, when he saw me begin
to blossom into something bigger than the underprivileged, reserved young
girl that I used to be, and my ultimate dream is to be just like that for my
future students. I remember the ways that our house fire in 2004 uprooted
our entire livesleaving us with almost nothing but each other. Constantly
bouncing from house, to house, losing the house that our family was raised
in and loved, and letting go of the idea of family that I once embraced
changed me in ways that I cannot even put into words. Soon after the fire my
parents divorced, and my sister went to live with another family as a live-in
nanny. I had to learn, though, that this was not a division in our family; this
was just a difference in tradition that our family had to adjust to together.
And we did. I know now that family lives and traditions are different for
different people, and sometimes things happen. This world that we live in is
based upon traditions and expectations, but sometimes change can be good,

too. I have learned to accept that it is okay not only for my family to be
different, but also for others to be the same. Growing up in a town with such
conformity with my situation was difficult at first. I was embarrassed, and
ashamed. Now, though, I embrace it, I cherish it, and I would not trade it for
any normal family in the world. I know that in the future, I will engage with
students and people from all sorts of different family, racial, religious, and
ethnic backgrounds. I understand that that is okay.
The time I spent in Barbados marked a huge change in my cultural
knowledge and exposure. I learned that our education system in America is
quite different that that of other countries. I interacted with teachers and
peers from all over the worldhearing stories and examples of how different
things are in different areas of the world. I met and endured the family life of
many different cultures just by staying with and meeting the parents and
families of my friends. Being the only white American in my class during my
stay exposed me to what it might feel like for another student who is not
from America. Having the ability to adapt well and make friends of all
different races, religions, and ethnicities is something that I feel like I can
share with my students to help them with their transitions as well. And, even
my resituating into the American schools after I returned from Barbados.
Since while in Barbados, I branched out more, I stepped out of my comfort
zone, and I reinvented who I was and who I wanted to be, I had to redo that
when I came back to Rockville. Who I was when I leftwho my peers
remembered me to bewas no longer something I would accept, but

portraying that to the people of Rockville was something that took time. My
understanding of difference, change, and circumstance has given me the
kinds of insights that will allow me as an instructor be better equipped to
handle and help students in my classroom who are in similar situations.
Being a multicultural educator is something that requires education,
tolerance, acceptance, and never-ending conscious thought and selfawareness. Instructors must have the ability and motivation to teach and
interact with individuals of all kinds of different backgrounds and cultures.
The book, Multicultural Schools: What, Why, and How, defines this kind of
multicultural teaching as, a complex approach to teaching and learning that
includes the movement toward equity in schools and classrooms, the
transformation of the curriculum, the process of becoming multiculturally
competent, and the commitment to address societal injustices, (Bennet, 2).
As an educator, this means that the instructor must be first willing and ready
to make the movefor the sake of their students. They must learn and
interact with their students, they must build strong relationships and trusts
so that the students feel comfortable and safe with the instructor. Without
this foundation, the instructor will be less effective in making this transition.
Education and tolerance of different religions, ethnicities, races, and cultures
is something that the instructor must personally work through for
themselves. This means understanding and educating themselves on
different customs, and cultures, and people. Next, this means taking a look
at themselvestheir feelings, their interactions, their preconceived ideas

and stereotypes of different groups of people. They should consider their
families, their backgrounds, their experiences, and their own personal beliefs
constantly asking themselves if their ideas of different groups could be
helpful or harmful to their students. Then, the instructor must make the
commitment, make a vow to always be there to meet the needs of every
student in his or her classroom. They must put in the effort to make sure that
multiculturalism is incorporated in their classrooms. They make themselves
take the steps to relate to and engage with individuals who are different from
themselves. They must rid themselves of stereotypes and prejudices, being
willing to step out of their comfort zones to build relationships and trusts with
students of every kind in an equitable manner. Equitable pedagogy
envisions teachers who create positive classroom climates, use culturally
responsive teaching to foster student achievement, and consider cultural
styles and culturally based child socialization, as well as the conditions of
poverty or wealth, in their approach to teaching and learning, (Bennett, 4).
The classroom should be a safe, positive learning environment for all
students, and the instructor should be the one to make it happen.
Throughout my life I would say I have had several extenuating
circumstancesones which have not only shaped me as a human being, but
that have also helped expand my knowledge and acceptance for people who
are different than me. Coming from a small town like Rockville was not
something that I would consider a hindrance, but rather, an insight into what
can negatively come from the types of predetermined mindsets and

stereotypes that many of the people in the community held true to
themselves. I remember how I felt not only as one in a lower status of the
community, but also as one who left and experience something completely
different, and then returned to the behavior. I remember instantly making
contrasts to the different cultures and experiences and teachings; I
remember being instantly deciding that the attitudes carried by the
community of Rockville was not something that I wanted to hold for myself.
My family circumstances have softened a place in my heart for anyone going
through financial struggles at home, and has provided me with the kind of
understanding and empathy to be able to help my students who could be in
the same situation. My time in Barbados has exposed me to so many
cultural, educational, and personal differences that I might experience in my
classroom. I have learned to interact with different beliefs and cultures, and
ideas, and I have had the privilege of getting to experience many different
ways of living through these relationships. It has shown me that what we
consider the norm or the accepted is something that is completely societal
and culturally constructed by us. Before my Barbados experience, I will
honestly say that I held on to some ethnocentric ideasnot really taking into
consideration that what I knew was only personal to me and people like me.
Now, though, I feel myself getting not only irritated when I hear people
discriminate and act uncomfortable around different cultures, but also
wanting to immediately get defensive. I know now that such attitudes do
nothing but hurt others and allow people to get personally stuck in their own

close-minded ways of thinking. These qualities, especially as an educator,
will build walls and barriers up between my students and me, and that is not
something which I am willing to accept. True multicultural education is an
area of teaching which requires constant though, constant consciousness,
constant attention. For the sake of my students, I know that to fail to do so
would be to ultimately fail at teaching, and my students will be the ones to
take the fall for my incompetence.

Bennett. (n.d.). Multicultural Schools: What, Why, and How? In The Case for

Education (pp. 2-30).

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achievement (pp. 1-15). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

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King, J. (2015). Dysconscious racism, Afrocentric praxis, and education for

human freedom the
selected works of Joyce E. King. (pp. 336-348). Hoboken: Taylor and

McCormick, T. (1994). Creating the nonsexist classroom: A multicultural

approach (pp. 52-83).
New York: Teachers College Press, Teachers College, Columbia

Phelan, P., Davidson, A., & Lu, H. (1993). Students' Multiple Worlds:
Navigating the Borders of
Family, Peer, and School Cultures. In Renegotiating cultural diversity in
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