Despite being enlightening and relevant, these courses alone were not enough. One cannot grasp within a 4-credit course the necessity of culture to a group of people who have endured such a painful history. Nor does it adequately explain that teachers aren't to encourage guilt or pity, but rather acceptance and understanding. Although different in many ways, marginalised groups of many countries are facing similar challenges. The Essential Understanding Regarding Montana Indians states:
Australia is progressing leaps and bounds with the recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures in the curriculum, as well as the movement for Constitutional recognition for the nation's first people (see YouMeUnity), but there is much to be done on the ground level. As CRTs, we teach the greatest variety of students. It is up to each of us as educators to display the enthusiasm necessary to educate ourselves about the heritage of our potential students. To grow up having teachers that understood us and that we could relate to is something many of us took for granted. Yet even more valuable than the necessity for white Americans/Australians to gain an appreciation of the local native's culture is the necessity for native students to see their lifestyle recognised within mainstream education. Every student deserves the opportunity to study something that they excel in, and for many students this passionate subject area is their culture.
Whilst recognition and education of these cultures begins in the school, CRTs must educate themselves. Mel from the Wodonga CRT Network recently posted about the Professional Development requirements for VIT registration (What do YOU want from Professional Development). Although some CRTs are (and have always been) excelling well beyond these minimal requirements, many are skidding by with the bare minimum hours for registration, failing to see the benefits of which a lifestyle of continual Professional Development allows. It's concerning to hear teachers are participating in Professional Development opportunities simply to tick off hours or to enhance their CV. Even worse is the thought that if it were not a requirement, some teachers would never participate in PDs. As educators, we must also be lifelong learners. We must be continually educating ourselves about our students and their world if we are to continue teaching effectively. As the quote at the top of this page from the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership states, “The best educators are the best learners. They can adapt to tomorrow’s contexts, technologies, languages.” With time and money constraints the drive for learning can be diminished, but be assured any effort to improve teaching practice can, in fact, be Professional Development. Attending seminars and workshops can provide a unique experience, expert advice, collegial atmosphere or simply the certificate. Seeking the advice of a colleague with multicultural expertise or observing others teach the subject can prove equally useful. Aside from the benefit to your students, Professional Development will allow for an acquisition of further self-awareness and a greater understanding of your skills and weaknesses as an educator. Oh what an infinite amount there is to learn.
More specifically, self-guided multicultural education gives teachers the skills to identify biases in past curriculum materials, as James W. Loewen outlines in Lies My Teacher Told Me:
Despite our initial ignorance and hesitations to a new subject area, we must take the challenges of the new curriculum head-on. Professional Development will help to provide insight, and give you the means to approach the topic. You don't need to have all the answers to teach something, and in my experience it’s actually better if you don't. An air of curiosity in the classroom is much better than that of denial and avoidance. Open the floor up to discussion and yourself up to what your students have to say; show them you're never too educated to learn.