All Belong: Diversity as a Value at Main Street Preschool
“Diversity” can be a buzz word in our culture. It is rare that we see an advertisement (at least a well thought out one) that doesn’t include multicultural distinction. Many schools have started a special emphasis week to help children focus on diversity and cultural understanding. At Main Street Preschool, several parts of our daily learning aims revolve around the inclusion of our diverse student population.
We consider ourselves fortunate to have such a vast variety of cultures in our Main Street family. Our community boasts 7 languages from 8 countries of origin. When parents express concern because their child isn’t “very verbal,” I find myself laughing as I tell them how many of our students experience this daily - even if English is there first and only language. And while we have staff with complete fluency in Amharic and a smattering of Spanish, there are often times when we struggle with communication.
Our solution for the times when our language, customs, or practices don’t match with one another is to be patient and recognize that tension. We have made a commitment as a staff to openly acknowledge this in order to honor our commitment to our diversity. Are we always going to understand one another? No. Will we have to work hard to be in community with one another? Yes. But, for us, this is a mission to which we feel called.
The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God. Leviticus 19:34
Our central teaching at Main Street is to love our neighbor. For us that means our neighbor might speak Spanish while our native tongue is Amaharic. I’ve actually witnessed children without a common language create sign language so that they could play together at doll house during Center Time. Here at Main Street Preschool, we are reminded daily of Jesus’ kingdom teaching which admonished us to love our neighbor as ourselves, even when we don’t speak the same language or have misunderstandings.
Put simply yet profoundly, we believe we are all members of one another. Because we are all made in the image of God, all image-bearers have value and belong. Language isn't a barrier to belonging, it just means we work harder to understand one another. Cultural customs aren't an impairment to belonging, but we might need to make adjustments in our expectations of each other. Just as these things do not separate from the love of God, they do not separate us from loving one another and belonging one to the other.
Belonging in the midst of difference and diversity requires intentionality and patience, but we are richer for our effort. We wouldn't trade the challenges we have faced as we incorporate many cultures and languages into our daily practices and communications. Afterall, we belong to them as much as they belong to us. We are members with each other in a new kind of kingdom that stands as witness to peace on Earth.
See these great resources about teaching your child about diversity: