Monday, November 29, 2010

Inclusion For All

As a physical education teacher in a public school, it is up to me to promote the health and well-being of my students by being culturally competent and creating a class that is both inclusive and empowering.  In order to do so I will increase multicultural competencies among myself and my students by working with fellow teachers and by creating a class atmosphere that accommodates and accepts all people. 

So What:  
Multicultural competence, as defined by Gill and Williams (2008), “refers to the ability to work effectively with people who are of a different culture… (and) are essential for anyone working with others, and certainly in all professional kinesiology roles” (p. 284).  Seeing as virtually all public schools have at least some level of multicultural diversity it is vital to establish multicultural competence to benefit ALL children from both a moral and developmental standpoint.  Negative stereotypes affect the minority group the most and according to Gill and Williams (2008) simple manipulations (such as telling a student that a test does not show race differences) can alleviate the stereotype threat.  Stereotypes can include: gender, sexual preference, physical attractiveness, race, ethnicity, disability, religion, physicality, among others.  A physical education class should be structured to benefit all children regardless of any of the previously mentioned physical and personal attributes; therefore it is important to create an atmosphere that tolerates all people.

Now What:  
I believe the most important factor in creating a multicultural competent atmosphere is to not limit the atmosphere to just the PE class.  Gill and Williams (2008) mention that 75% of teachers witness homophobic behaviors in their classroom and more than 50% of those teachers do not confront the behavior.  The teachers may ignore the behavior because the rest of the society, and most likely the rest of the teachers, will continue to reinforce homophobic behaviors because they have are widely accepted and have become the norm.  As a PE teacher, if I do everything in my power to create a classroom where the children accept multicultural differences, and they go to their next class where this is not the case, every bit of work I have done has been debunked.  In my classroom I will make it a certain point not only to treat all children fairly, I will continuously address situations where children may be singled out, and will make an effort to confront students who don’t treat others fairly.  Cultural competency needs to be a school-wide effort in order to truly be effective.  According to the APA Multicultural Guidelines (2002) multicultural education may help to counteract stereotyping that may lead to prejudices towards minorities.  Based on this I think it would be important to educate not only the students, but also parents and teachers on the detrimental effects of stereotyping.  Hopefully, this will encourage both educators and families to also create multicultural competent atmospheres so that what I encourage will not be cancelled out by others. 

Gill and Williams (2008) discuss the controversial area of “stacking.”  Stacking refers to when white athletes are put in the power position and hold a central role in controlling where minority positions will be.  One way to eliminate this from ever happening would be to either let the children decide what positions they want to play in team games, or to randomly assign positions if they are unable to come to a decide on their own..  Stacking is most common in organized sports and could easily happen in PE, but if a PE teacher is aware of it, stacking should be something easy to control. 

Including children with disabilities would be an extremely difficult task to take on, especially in those severely disabled.  Gill and Williams (2008) mention that “people with physical disabilities are one of the most inactive segments of the populations” (p. 282).  Craft (1994) discusses the inclusion of children with disabilities and she brings up several important approaches.  Craft makes a special point that children with disabilities should in fact be included in PE classes.  Being in constant contact with special education specialists, occupational and physical therapists, as well as other professionals in the field is very useful as they can provide the necessary consultation needed to allow children with special needs to get the most out of the class.  Each individual child will most likely need individual changes in the curriculum, so appropriate consultation is important in order to not only challenge the child to develop and put forth effort, but to also have fun and be included.

As a physical educator it is important to promote health and well-being to all students equally, and important part of that is making sure the children know they are all equals, even if their athletic ability is far from similar.  To increase cultural competence in the children it is not only important for me to set a good example, but for the entire faculty and parents to reinforce that good example.  Equality can be established in team games by randomly assigning positions and teams, which would also avoid stacking.  As for children with any form of physical or mental disability it is vital to communicate with professionals in the field in order to provide the least restrictive environment for the child so they can be challenged and have fun.

American Psychological Association (APA). (2003). Guidelines on multicultural educations, training, research, practice, and organizational change for psychologists. American Psychologist, 58, 377-402.
Craft, H. (1994).  Implications of inclusion for physical education.  The Journal of Physical Education, Recreations, and Dance, 65, 54-55.
Gill, D. L., & Williams, L. (2008). Psychological dynamics of sport and exercise (3rd Ed.). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

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