How to deal with inequality in socio-cultural opportunities

Child poverty and differences in socio-cultural needs may inflict our core attitude as teachers. Therefore, it should be a kind of built-in reflex that enables to act adequately when needed.

Let’s find out how to adopt an inclusive attitude!

1. Accepting a diverse reality

  • Acknowledging inequality

Inequality might be right around the corner, or even staring you in the face. Of course, there are signs that may indicate a vulnerable home situation. Deprivation and lack of opportunities is not a one issue matter. You may feel black inside but being black outside entail a whole other set of issues. In other cases, a change in a regular home situation, such as a parent being suddenly out of a job, will of course also have an impact.

  • Broadening our view

No one is without prejudice. Thinking “us against them” will seldom lead to new insights. Observing differences is useful when it allows us to step up our daily effort and make sus act according to pedagogical needs that put the children’s perspectives first.

  • Having faith in diversity

So many different children aspiring to learn about music, so many different home situations. However hard a home situation might be to break away from, schooling and education should always try to mend the gap between (the lack of) opportunities and real life expectations.

2. Improving interaction

  • Peers needed

Fortunately, the days are long gone that education was the sole domain of teachers. These are the days in which first of all, students themselves, often have a pretty good idea about their school lives and what to expect, or not to expect. After all, a fair amount of their time is spent as school days. That does make them school experts. Also, there is parents and other pedagogical stakeholders who all have their own claims to pedagogical truth. To a teacher nowadays, it sometimes may seem as an unsurpassable challenge to keep all those noses in the same direction. The art of conversation and cooperation and most of all, sharing insights, is needed to ensure adequate pedagogical circumstances.

  • Safe surroundings

Foremost, a classroom should always be a reliable haven. There is no sound basis for future learning without respect, appreciation and signs of an affectionate engagement. Simple human values, that are no less present when young people are experiencing difficult times
at home.

  • Parenthood relations are always special

It is not always easy to bridge the gap between a possibly socially difficult context and the school gate. Parents might actually find it hard to walk up to their child’s or children’s school.

    • Blending in with the school’s surroundings: a welcoming school appearance may mean a world of difference to parents.
    • Engaging contacts: regular informal contacts with parents establish a bond of confidence with parents.
    • Getting to grips with specific parental abilities: every parent input may turn out to be a valuable input. Again (cf. 2.1) who are we to judge?
    • Getting parents involved: to have parents participate in school life may sometimes be an engaging but eventually rewarding challenge.

3. Education is a joint responsability, act accordingly

  • Self evaluation

Your standard practice – as a teacher – should never be self-evident. Being able to engage in leveling access to equal opportunities will inevitably have you put your performance as a teacher to a test. Reflecting upon “special circumstances” will benefit your overall approach as a teacher.

  • Equal opportunities

Sometimes it simply amounts to money. Whereas participating costs should be kept as low as possible, there are more issues at stake. It can only be underlined that equal opportunities is about communication, parent engagement, accepting a multilingual context as an asset, et cetera.

  • Extracurricular dialogue

Of course, in working together with different education stakeholders outside one’s own school environment, there is certainly a risk of overexposure. Especially so-called vulnerable children often develop a sixth sense that will give off a warning signal. Fortunately, you will always come across kindred spirits in outside organizations, people who – like you – put young people first and who try to think up custom made solutions, both based on their expertise, as well as on the specific context of every singular child.