"White Teacher" book review, by Intern Liv Swanton
White Teacher, by Vivian Paley, is a book about a kindergarten teacher who taught in an integrated school where she learned to recognize diversity within her classroom. Race, religion, and disabilities are somethings that aren’t necessarily talked about openly within classrooms. Many recognize other people's differences but fail to understand how those differences impact other people’s lives. Mrs. Paley figured out that the best way to accept other people’s differences is to teach them about it.
Barbara Marcus was a young Jewish student who loved to share about her culture. She even started a club within her classroom with just Jewish kids. Many kids felt left out and upset because they weren’t Jewish. Mrs. Paley recognized the situation and decided to teach people about different cultures. There were many international students throughout the school and Mrs. Paley decided to ask parents to share music from their culture, so she could teach the students about each other’s differences. Every morning they would start with a traditional cultural song, so everyone got a chance to share their culture with the class. Once this happened, Barbara stopped asking people to label themselves and people began to feel more open about sharing their culture.
Janet Albright was a student teacher that Mrs. Paley had. Janet was a kind and sensitive African American woman who gave Mrs. Paley new perspectives on things. Janet pushed Mrs. Paley out of her comfort zone and made her realize that some characteristics of a child need to be recognized and talked about in order for others to accept them. Stuart was in their classroom and he had a stutter. While reading aloud a book in class, Stuart got stuck on a word. Janet did not hesitate to tell Stuart that she sees that he is struggling with a certain word and told the students that that was called stuttering. She explained to the class that some people who stutter have to reword their sentences, so they don’t struggle as much. Janet then said that they don’t mind waiting for Stuart to finish his sentence and that he should take his time. Leading by example, students began to encourage Stuart. Janet showed students that it’s okay to recognize people’s differences in order to have an inclusive environment.
I’ve learned a lot from the book, White Teacher. Differences should be celebrated not looked down upon. As kids are growing up it’s easy for them to pick up negative opinions from other people, but if you teach them and give them an opportunity to celebrate their differences then maybe being different doesn’t have to be bad thing. There are so many topics people are too scared to talk about but teaching kids about being inclusive is an important aspect if we want our society to continue to move forward.