Cultural Sensitivity in the Muncie Community Schools

Cultural Sensitivity in the Muncie Community Schools
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With the tragic events in Charlottesville two weeks ago and the continued unrest in our nation, we need to step back and take a look at what we are doing in our schools and classrooms to model inclusiveness and acceptance of others. MCS has been striving to be a leader in creating more culturally aware and sensitive students for more than a decade. Here are the activities that are currently occurring:

Currently all MCS schools reported anti-bullying lessons with students in the last week. Some are conducting such lessons at the beginning of the school year and again at the beginning of second semester while some schools are integrating lessons throughout the year. One 6th grade class at SMS is reading Wonder and discussing the differences among the characters. They will then become more introspective about how they should treat one another.

Teachers throughout the district have been working to integrate our PBIS plan which includes teaching students to be safe, team players and being responsible and accountable for their own actions. The PBIS program in MCS is partially supported by a grant from Meridian Health Services.

At South View Elementary and many of our schools, guidance counselors schedule time to speak with classes on bullying /tolerance/inclusion and treating others the way you want to be treated. Numerous schools report reading fictional and non-fictional books about characters with different ethnic backgrounds including historical novels and those novels designed to promote racial, ethnic, cultural and religious tolerance.

Several schools are watching CNN student news and discussing acceptance. A teacher at the YOC reports leading a discussion with US History students about their thoughts on the removal of Confederate statues. The teacher stated that students were enlightened and thoughtful in their discussion points.

Some teachers are using the Teaching Tolerance Series throughout the year. At MCHS in English 9, students recently read Langston Hughes and talked about the grace and compassion extended to the boy in the story.

In speech classes, students have been assigned a speech prompt to share a little of their stories. One expectation for presentations as well as discussions is that they are to be respectful and supportive of each other and each other's opinions and experiences.

A teacher at the MACC took a Race and Ethnicity class at BSU and the professor showed the class a video in which this teacher has shown her class. It is the experiment, teacher Jane Elliott conducted in her 3rd grade class in Iowa many years ago (the blue eyes / brown eyes exercise). The students watched the video, answered prepared questions and then discussed. She's done this for the past two years and reports that the video and discussions have been beneficial for her students as it changes the lens they view things.

Many social studies teachers are integrating tolerance into their lessons. In a classroom at MCHS, RESPECT is discussed the first day of class...respect for their classmates and themselves. After noticing cliques on Day 2 of school, this same teacher had students select numbers which correlated to their assigned tables. Students were uncomfortable at first but are now forming positive relationships with a diverse group.

Some schools have reported that they have tried to have discussions on what occurred in Charlottesville however; numerous students were unaware. NMS staff have arranged for some of our church partners in the African American community to work with our students in an effort to promote tolerance and partnerships.

On August 14 during Peer Tutoring, students discussed the events over the weekend. The students then broke into groups and came up with talking points for their peers.  Students came up with a list of ways to include tolerance within the school and with their peers. The students felt it was important to stand up for each other. They discussed their fears for society and created talking points for situations that could arise within the building.

Muncie Community Schools began Professional Development in the area of Diversity and Cultural Competency during the 2009-2010 school year. Since that time we have provided training (along with an action plan) for teachers, support staff, school security officers, guidance counselors, school secretaries and others. In addition, visual cultural audits have been conducted in all of our schools resulting in individual schools building on strengths and addressing areas of concerns. Each principal was given a copy of the report for their school and was asked to work with their staff to devise a plan to address the concerns. One purpose of the audit was for us to look at our practices and to purposefully address concerns.

From 2012 - 2017 our schools were provided with Take Ten for Cultural Competency activities which allowed MCS staff to discuss numerous topics that focused on inclusiveness and acceptance.  Based on the grade levels of students, those topics were then discussed.