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[teacherartexchange] Teaching diverse populations

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From: Melissa Enderle (melissa_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Sat Sep 09 2006 - 10:20:04 PDT


I have been teaching overseas for 7 years now. Before then, I was in
Milwaukee for 4 and a northern Wisconsin town for two. My first
school in Milwaukee was not very diverse - about 90% African
American, most others Hmong or Laotian, and one Hispanic. 97%
received free lunch. The second school was much more diverse. It was
a school with a 40% disability population, which I really liked. I
think it's really important for kids to interact with peers with and
without disabilities. There were examples of kids who had severe
physical disabilities, but were very intelligent and/or very
personable. Others shone in art, becoming role models and experts for
their non-disabled peers. The school ranged from self-contained to
full inclusion. Classes would buddy up with a younger grade, forming
a bond with kids they normally wouldn't associate with. Once you get
to know people who look or act different than you, they become less
"scary" or intimidating. I wish that more people had a chance to work
with kids with severe disabilities, seeing beyond what they can't do
and instead focusing on strengths and seeing the disabled as people
with unique personalities and talents.

Now on to the overseas teaching. Working with kids, parents, and
teachers from all over the world is one of the most exciting things
to me about teaching overseas. Our school has a host country cap of
around 20%, to ensure that the student population remains diverse and
not simply local kids. Our school in Serbia currently has about 380
students from around 35 different countries. Many of the kids are
dual-nationality. Nearly all (including the Serbian kids) have lived
in another country. Most speak at least two, if not three or more
languages. They have also traveled extensively, broadening their
experiences even further. Their geographical knowledge is quite
impressive, able to locate and give information about countries and
cities around the world. I especially enjoy listening to discussions
between kids about current news events or topics. With so many
different countries (either through living, traveling, or originating
there) and religions represented, a wide variety of experiences and
viewpoints are shared. That is so different from where I grew up -
the big differences were town vs. farm kids, Lutheran vs. Catholic.
When around people with such varying experiences and backgrounds from
mine, I begin to think about my own culture - what makes me as a
Wisconsinite from Lutheran German farm heritage unique. Having lived
in two countries in Africa and now in Eastern Europe, I can tell you
that I follow world news much more closely and with a different pair
of eyes.

Melissa Enderle
Technology Coordinator/Facilitator
International School of Belgrade
http://web.mac.com/melissaenderle/iWeb/Melissa%20Enderle%20-%20Travel%
20Journeys/Welcome.html

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