I had strong negative feelings about our school having an open enrollment as our admission policy. I experienced and still am experiencing the challenge to teach students with behavioral problems and students with no knowledge of English. Although I kept things to myself, I have been negative and kept blaming the Admission Department for not doing their job right. I was frustrated and I wanted out.
But I was also ignorant. Culturally responsive pedagogy, inclusive-learning friendly environment… these are all new to me. It’s embarrassing to admit but I have committed mistakes that I wish I could undo. Was I culturally responsive towards my teaching and my students? No. Was I applying inclusion? No.
My autobiography as a learner helped me realize and understand why my beliefs were they were. In the Philippines, there are schools that are exclusive for certain groups. In the public school that I went to, students were groups by their academic abilities. There was a year that I didn’t do well and I was move down to a different section which really affected me. We’ve always sorted things and remove those that don’t belong in a group and we still do.
My ignorance of it blinded me and led me to teach insensitively. I may have hurt some of my students in the past because of my words, actions or teaching practices. But because of this module, I was able to reflect on my practices and I’m now informed of how I could be inclusive and culturally responsive as a teacher. My belief has changed and now know that differences are a great resource for learning.
Being informed, I now understand why our admission policy is the way it is. But knowing now how to be culturally responsive and inclusive make me question the policy even more. We have an open enrollment and yet we lack the human resources for these students. Is my school really being inclusive or just want to gain more money from it? There’s 1 Special education Teacher for 65 students, no in-house Psychologist to diagnose these students either and 1 English Language Development Teacher for 180 students. We don’t have enough teaching materials to make our teaching effective or enough assessment kits.
To be culturally responsive and inclusive requires a huge change of beliefs from the leaders of the school all the way down to the teachers and parents. We have to review our school policies and procedures to ensure that they are sensitive to the diversity of our school population. There should also be an on-going professional development for teachers, staff and parents tackling these issues. We need the involvement of all, leaders, teachers, parents and students. It needs to be part of our daily life for it to become a belief.