The Perkins Perspective | Reviews | Winter 2013


Our Worlds in Our Words

Our Worlds in Our Words

By Bethany Garcia


Our Worlds in Our Worlds: Exploring Race, Class, Gender, Sexual Orientation in Multicultural Classrooms

Mary Dilg
Teachers College Press, 2010, 149 pps


Reading Our World in Our Words by Mary Dilg, I was surprised each time she mentioned classrooms in which multicultural education is not taught due to the teacher’s reluctance to bring up controversial topics ― partly because they do not know much about diversity themselves.


But to be a good teacher, one needs to learn about the people who surrounded them, and work to understand why differences exist. When a teacher does not understand, or is hesitant to bring up, the diversity present in the classroom, students miss the opportunity to learn about those around them, hindering them from getting past the divisions of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation. As teachers, we have the job to not only introduce these topics in the classroom, but also to foster safe and healthy discussions in a way that allows everyone to learn about those who are different from them.


One way to learn is by studying literature from authors of diverse backgrounds, which Dilg says, “provides an opportunity for all students to learn about the workings of class in many different types of lives in this country and for students across class lines to see their own lives reflected in the focus of their studies.”


Students learn and are impacted more by works that are relatable to them; they also become more interested in learning. Dilg states that “a vital connection between students and material stimulates analytical thinking, discussion, problem solving, and debate.” Instead of simply reading and assigning homework on a piece of literature, teachers need to allow room for discussion and debate on difficult subjects found in diverse works. If we do not do this, how else will our students learn about the invisible divisions present in their community and be able to get past them?


As our nation becomes more multicultural [and more segregated], writes Dilg, “our students have fewer opportunities to know well those whose lives are different from their own.” As teachers, we must become educated on the diversity that surrounds us and our students, rather than staying in our comfort zone with the “white literature” many of us have been taught. We can then educate our students about what it means to be from a class, gender, sexual orientation, or race other than their own.


One idea from the book that still stands out to me is that “what we offer in class must speak to their needs, their joys, and their lives.” Teaching in this manner also means that we cannot discriminate against teaching about things many may be uncomfortable with, such as sexual orientation. This does not mean teachers should encourage a particular sexual orientation, but that they simply teach on the subject so that students are educated and less likely to discriminate against those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. If we are not able to successfully teach and discuss this topic, those students who are struggling may feel isolated from the rest of the class because they do not have the same opportunities to relate to the material being taught.


Reading this book has allowed me to have a better idea of what kind of teacher I plan to be. I see even more how important multicultural education is in the classroom. Not only does it help students learn more about each other and the world around them, but it also allows the teacher to grow and get to know the students better. The easiest way to do this is to have discussions pertaining to hard topics many people prefer not to talk about. These discussions allow everyone involved to become more open to different views, to learn more about themselves, and to learn more about each other.


Bethany GarciaBethany Garcia is a junior at Seattle Pacific University, majoring in English and secondary education. After graduating in 2014, she plans to teach junior or high school in an urban setting.




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