It has been an eventful journey for me as I have pursued this course of knowledge, understanding and discovery. I have gained in comprehending concepts that had earlier been mere speculations, and have had my beliefs and judgements reinforced by new ideas
One of the research-proven concepts that I have connected most with is the concept of micro-aggression in the classroom and how it should be eradicated. Microaggression is a negative concept, leading to low self worth, hampered development, and “death by a million tiny cuts”. It is discrimination at its worst, because it is often unconsciously meted out, with the perpetrator frequently not aware that he is indulging in it. In the classroom, microaggression may be from peers, from teachers, or from the other staff. As a victim of microaggression as a student, I remember being hesitant to speak out, both by my introvert and shy nature and by the apprehension that it would be swept under the carpet with the assumption that I am ‘too sensitive’ and should learn to adjust to, what they consider, perfectly acceptable rebukes or criticisms. I was always made to feel that it is ‘no big deal’ and I should learn to rise above them if I am to face the real world. I would argue in my mind that those were probably unintentional, though hurtful, and it would not improve matters if I spoke up.
Now, in retrospect, I feel that they have had a major effect on me. As I delve into my coursework and read what research has to say about micro aggression, I realise that each of these incidents has left its mark. Researches that I have perused have brought to the forefront the fact that these experiences, although termed ‘micro’ actually have ‘major’ consequences in the long run. These slights and discrimination, intentional or not, lead to impaired motivation, lack of commitment and hence are impediments to success in the future. Mental health problems like anxiety and depression are likely to occur, leading to behaviour problems that may be difficult to rectify.
This realization has brought to the forefront the critical role that educators have to play in handling situations that lead to microaggressions in and sometimes outside the classroom. Schools should be felt to be ‘homes away from homes’ for children where they may learn, interact, and thrive in comfort and ease. Any act of microaggression should be nipped in the bud, with support given to both the perpetrators and the victims. While the perpetrators should be ingrained into the tenets of equality and how everyone is capable irrespective of their differences; the victims should be taught resilience and also be encouraged to learn to fight back. Modelling appropriate behaviour in the classroom would also work wonders, giving the children opportunities to follow and learn from role models.
What surprised me was the realization that children are very intuitive and receptive from a very early age. It has been proven that by the time a child is three years old, he is capable of picking up cues from the social behaviour around him to imbibe it. Derman-Sparks (p. 2) states how such young children may display biased attitudes based on gender or race and demonstrate “pre- prejudice” towards their peers accordingly. Psychologists term this as being “culturally programmed”; and it is shocking that this is indeed the truth.
I have hopes to further investigate the concept of sustainable development and how this may be facilitated through education, especially at the early stage level. My literature review has made me realise that there is paucity on research on the impact of early childhood education on sustainable society. Researchers have suggested educators to imbibe the policies and practices followed in different countries at the early childhood level that would lead to sustainable development; and I agree with this idea wholeheartedly.
Another area that I find interesting and wish to investigate further is the one that enumerates and describes the skills that must be possessed by early childhood educators so as they may provide appropriate guidance to students at this critical stage that would lead to sustainable development.
My desire to investigate these areas is directly related to my future aspirations; which is education for sustainability. I believe that this is education in the true sense of the term, and this should begin right from birth, and be followed up in the early childhood school, and further on. As was discussed earlier, children are receptive from a very early age, as early as when they are three years old, and so the early childhood sector is the right time to lead them to democratic values and acceptance of all cultures, languages and social patterns. Such grounding in equality with acceptable values and ideals at this early stage will help in creating children with strong logical, psychological, emotional and social bases who are aware of the diversity around them and accept it without any discrimination. The 21st century has led to the metaphorical shrinking of the world with people of varied nationalities, cultures, languages and lifestyles living and thriving side by side. It is thus imperative for children to be ingrained in intercultural education to learn to accept this diversity around them and learn and grow for sustainable development of the world.
I have been motivated to choose this profession by many factors. Prime and foremost is the fact that early childhood is the most critical stage in the life of a person, and any input at this stage has lifelong effects. An early childhood educator has in his hands to provide the correct inputs to the children, helping him imbibe positive values, admirable skills and in-depth knowledge; all of which will help him create a sustainable society in the future. Such children will make the right choices and grow up with decision making skills that will have a beneficial effect on their own lives and on society at large (Roth and McGinn, 1998). And this may be done by encouraging children to be themselves and assist them to learn from activities that they mostly bond with, which invariably begins from early childhood and at home. It is the duty of early childhood educators to realise this, and thus take active steps to rope in the parents into the process and form partnerships with them so as to ensure there is continuity in the inputs that the children receive at home and at school (Siraj-Blatchford, 1999). Keeping this in mind, I am indeed fortunate to have chosen this profession as it gives me the opportunity to guide children at their most vulnerable and receptive stage so that they grow up to be conscientious individuals with a positive mindset, denouncing discrimination and alienation; all of which will help in the creation of a sustainable society in the future.
Derman-Sparks, L., & Edwards, J. O. (2010).Anti-bias education for young children and ourselves.Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Laureate Education (Producer). (2011). Microaggressions in Everyday Life [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu
Perez, G. (n.d.). Proud to be an early childhood educator. Retrieved from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/390546598910174113/?from_navigate=true
Microagression. Digital image.(n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.frontpagemag.com/tag/microaggression
Samuelsson, I. P., &Kaga, Y. (2008). The contribution of early childhood education to a sustainable society. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0015/001593/159355E.pdf