The classroom environment is very important for children as it shapes their future beliefs, worldview, and social belonging. As children leave their common home surroundings, teachers help them immerse into a new world. It is important that teachers can acquire and use the necessary skills and tools, which may sometimes pose a challenge. The objective of the following paper is to review the book Starting Small in order to get an insight into how to gain skills and develop tolerance in early grades and preschool environment.
The major key points of the book include the importance of tolerance among the children due to their diversity. A teacher is the person who can help children to get basic understanding of the concept of multiplicity and equality. It is significant to teach pupils that everyone is different, and diversity should be respected and seen not as drawback, but an opportunity. The book indicates important notions and ideas that teachers are to use in order to be professional while teaching tolerance among young kids.
Chapter 1 describes the typical environment and atmosphere in the classroom that every child encounters from the first days outside the family circle. The book outlines the importance of such a concept as “sharing time” according to which children have a possibility to “share” their own stories, which eventually stimulates sharing experiences and life values. In this context, both physical and emotional safety should be emphasized. It is also important to establish trusting relationships that are very important for children being in foster care. Such key concepts as belonging together and tolerance are given in-depth discussion in the chapter. Diversity is a major issue in the school environment, as everyone is different and respect to this should be cultivated from early stages of a person’s life. The chapter provides important examples where teachers ought to teach children that everyone is equally important and give recommendations regarding keeping unity in the community. The key point of the chapter is to understand that children should learn racial identity. As children have an ability to categorize themselves and others, they need to learn the right way to perceive diversity. Major tools include encouraging children to notice and appreciate their differences as well as looking into cultural values through exploring one’s family background and value others.
Chapter 2 discusses the importance of not only talking about cultural and group diversity, but of the possibilities to demonstrate it on a regular basis. Equality can encourage a child to remove bias from their perception of the world and stand out with their own view without being afraid to meet prejudice. Olena Edwards suggests four major steps that may help children to explore different concepts and build strong perception of fair treatment and equality. The basic instruments include visual posters, videos, and books, though introduction of ‘fair’ and ‘unfair’ concepts while teaching and playing with children is also very important. Teachers are to challenge the choices made by children, which eventually assists in shaping their understanding of any kind of diversity. The chapter provides information regarding the importance of enlarging the classroom community, as parents might also take an active part in helping their children with understanding of diversity. The key point of the chapter is a concept of fairness, a moral judgment that a child learns to take. This might be quite complicated thing to teach, as a child perceives the world’s perception and the behavior of certain adults, which may not be a suitable example. Teachers must nurture justice through dialog encouragement that can help to identify the social issues and design special learning activities that would foster fair approach. Gender awareness and fostering of gender equality are achieved through creation of the studying environment where children are treated equally and have a good interaction with one another.
The information discussed in Chapter 3 helps provide educational professionals with the knowledge regarding the “vanishing of the wrong perception” due to economic gap between children. Teaching tolerance is very important, as everything around us is “global,” and every child must be treated as an equal part of the community that is related to ground rules. The mentioned rules could prepare children not only in terms of academic knowledge, but also in terms of social and emotional intelligence. This may assist in understanding that all people are different and should be treated with respect and patience. The tactic of being “peacemakers”, which is a role that many teachers and professionals are assigned to, helps many children to set an example of being kind and helpful towards the others. Sometimes small children can only see their own choices, and teachers are there to help them understand that the mentioned choices can affect the society and other people as well. Suggested tools and concepts are connected with introduction of such rules as “Kind words, kind hands” and others, as this helps to tailor the cognitive perception and development in the right direction. Friendship connections belong to the basic needs, which helps to develop a sense of social belonging and master control aggressive tendencies, as well as develop sharing and build healthy peer relationships. The key point of the chapter is friendship skills, which can be acquired through using proper learning materials, role-playing, discriminatory and exclusionary behavior intervention, etc. The chapter also provides reflection of important teaching strategy “being the same, while being different.” This strategy emphasizes that diversity discovery comes though examination of both teachers’ and students’ behavior in terms of treating everyone equally and helping children to feel the same.
Chapter 4 discusses such important notions as prejudice formation, as external and negative sources are there to give a wrong impression to children. In this connection, “morning ritual,” which requires handshaking as a sign of respect and bonding, is advantageous not only for children, but also for teachers, as it entitles everyone to maintain eye contact in a form of a friendly interaction. The chapter speaks about the magnet program and other educational philosophies, which are related to economically and racially diverse population at schools, which is maintained with the high level of equality and diversity tolerance. The concept of a well-loved place where personal items remain undisturbed and comfortable places with flowers might be fostering children to bring differences by their actions and act with curiosity, but in a right way. In this chapter, Linda Alston gives examples of other teaching tools that help foster tolerance and suggests “celebration” of the presence of cultural, ethical, and language diversity in a class. The example with black and white rugs that are used by the blacks and whites accordingly demonstrates that teachers should stop this type of behavior in a proper way by coaching children to act right. She also proposes to discuss issues and dilemmas immediately once they arise. Children should be welcomed to express themselves once they feel concerns, while teachers should use any kind of resources that can help them to gain necessary knowledge. The key point of the chapter is that 3-4 years are critical to white children who start noticing and perceiving differences, while teachers should handle this existence of prejudice and help kids eliminate it through preparing equal environment, taking an active role, showing right example, etc.
The topic that is depicted in the chapter 5 is connected with the influence of words, hearing, and curiosity fostering. Children move to new schools as their parents find a better job, and teachers must turn their classrooms into “caring families,” so that any newcomer can feel happy and welcomed. Common development of the set of class rules, as well as problem solving within the class environment is the key concepts of the chapter. The job of a teacher is to be a judge, which requires giving equal time to speak to both parties, as the majority of the conflicts in kindergartens are based on misunderstandings. The behavior of a teacher must exclude blame and punishment techniques, while team games and partnership can literally do miracles. Particular attention is given to the children with disabilities, as their teaching requires psychological and emotional awareness as well as usage of proper techniques. Moreover, teachers are encouraged to teach children not only to behave safe, but also to point out when some of the adults do wrongs things that can become a serious life threat to many people. Teachers should point out certain limitations and explain children that they have to be patient and have tolerance to those with disabilities. Thus, there can arise the issues with fairness, as children with disabilities might require special treatment. The teachers must intervene to help the latter to develop social skills as they might be closed to themselves. The key point of the chapter is that responding to special needs requires the teachers to provide examples that include people with disabilities who still are an integral part of the society, to include the information regarding special needs in the curriculum, and to broaden awareness and understanding of fostering. One of the most universal languages is a game through which a perfect platform to promote equality and respect among the children could be established.
Chapter 6 discusses the example of a teacher who has changed her behavior through time and practice and finally understood that punishment could hardly be the best option to achieve success. It tells about “I Care Rules”, which are connected with listening to the thoughts and ideas of the others, using hands for helping, and holding responsibilities for one’s own actions. Usually the first reaction to violence is a negative response, but peace and tolerance establishment in a classroom with the help of such tools as changing one’s own attitudes, benchmarking the positive behavior, and giving points for “doing the right thing” can be more effective. Making role-play situations within the classrooms as well as imagining possible solutions can help to avoid “blaming” kind for their behavior and incorporate peace. Sometimes violence appears to be used as close as in children’s homes, and changing the patterns of their behavior can be a challenge. Nevertheless, incorporation of different rules in kindergartens can help children to express themselves properly and without unnecessary violence. Such concepts as “peace table” (discussions of what peace means) and proper classroom rules that encourage social and friendly environment are very important. Rules must be expressed in a proper manner and conflicts must be solved immediately and transparently. The key point of the chapter lies in the fact that teachers must encourage self-discipline and involve children in positive classroom climate, as well as incorporate coordinated and comprehensive strategies that would foster positive behavioral patterns.
The last chapter of the book focuses on the importance of teacher’s responsible intervention in order to help children. For instance, the author provides a story of a teacher Cathy Main, working with a boy who has experienced very traumatic event and had bad emotional outburst. Cathy turns his attention from it by taking him out to have some leisure activities, which is a right move. Teachers must look into the concerns of a child and make them feel safe and secure. Intervention should take place when certain children have improper violent behavior. Some issues should better be discussed with such kids in private. The chapter speaks about an important concept of making sure that classrooms include the right denominators, where culture and proper behavior are depicted smartly. The key point of the chapter is that kids need to feel that they are special and learn to respect themselves, while teachers are to undergo extensive diversity trainings regularly and try to be allies with parents when possible. There might be certain gray areas, as well as childhood losses that can affect the behavior of kids. The chapter therefore provides recommendations on the teacher’s correct handling of the stressful events, as well as on helping a child to cope with their loss.
In conclusion, it is important to mention that the book serves as a valuable tool for teachers in terms of multiple-layered exploration of skills, knowledge, and feelings that can be experienced while teaching young children. Besides, using the proper concepts and tools, teachers could be able to self-reflect and improve themselves if needed, as well as make sure that the classroom environment is set in the best possible way in order to foster the right behavior in terms of diversity and tolerance.