A Multicultural Education Instructor's Reflective Self-Analysis: Facing the Challenge of Teaching and Learning

Article excerpt

Multicultural education courses pose individual challenges to both students and instructors. Such courses, by their nature, raise powerful and unavoidable questions about issues of sexism, racism, social inequality, and linguistic as well as religious diversity, which tend to be uncomfortable topics for students and teachers to discuss.

As Ahlquist (1992) indicates, "whether unconscious or conscious, intentional or unintentional, prospective teachers find it difficult to accept that whites have benefited economically, socially and psychologically from institutional and interactional racism, and males have benefited from sexism" (p. 89). Such attitudes can create tension between students and instructors and among students themselves in multicultural education courses, as demonstrated in the article by Gutierrez-Gomez (2002). This tension may raise resistance, which is a major obstacle to learning and achieving desired change.

The journey towards effectively helping students become aware of their biases, stereotypes, prejudices, and privileges must begin with multicultural education instructors themselves. They must explore their own cultural preconceptions and ideologies through careful and truthful reflective self-analysis in order to be able to manage and constructively interpret theirs and their students' shared societal and classroom lived experiences. Teaching multicultural education is much more than dispensing content and knowledge. It is about building relationships (Nieto, 1999), and do so in a classroom environment that fosters mutual recognition and validation.

This article looks closely at the challenges of teaching a graduate multicultural education seminar from an instructor's personal perspective. First, I discuss my cultural identity and my rationale for teaching multicultural education. Second, I explain my philosophy of multicultural education. Third, I outline the objectives of the course. Fourth, I discuss the teaching challenges I encounter in teaching the course, from the perspective of a faculty of color on a predominantly White campus. I conclude with some recommendations for learners and teachers of multicultural education.

Cultural Identity and Reasons for Teaching

Who Am I?

I am a Burundian Hutu who witnessed first hand the victimizing and devastating consequences of intolerance, discrimination, and genocide for the first 30 years of my life and who will suffer from the effects and aftermaths of the resulting wounds and scars until I draw my last breath. I am an immigrant whose English accent is constantly questioned and seen as an exotic element of curiosity, a hindrance, or a weakness.

I am a Black woman who has to confront the daily pressures of being Black in a society that judges me through stereotypical lenses. I am a single mother raising two children that society almost expects to become the next school dropout, criminal, or teenage pregnancy statistic. I am an educated educator who works twelve to fourteen hours a day, yet cannot afford to save money for retirement.

I am a university faculty of color with great academic and professional potential, who will most likely have to fight for recognition. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who wonders why so few people look like me in my chapel. I am an African who considers Africa to be the real motherland. I am a refugee who resents the separation from family. This is who I am and this cultural identity influences and shapes my teaching philosophy and approaches.

Why Do I Teach? And Why Do I Teach Multicultural Education?

My short response to these probing questions may seem naive to anyone who does not understand the depth of my dream as a multicultural education instructor. I want to change the world, one person at a time.

My teaching approach in multicultural education is to guide students through the process of discovery, understanding, and appreciation of self and others. …