What Does An Ethnic Studies Teacher Do?

Ethnic studies teachers enlighten students on the politics, economics, literatures and development of Latin Americans, Asian-Americans and African-Americans at the high school and postsecondary levels. They facilitate a discussion on the histories and experiences of these minority groups as they relate to the U.S. society. They strive to give the class a well-rounded view of these groups, including in their discussions such topics as their art, law, education, public policy and beliefs. Instructors also relate their discussions about ethnicities, race and gender to film, media, video games and the Internet. Ethnic studies teachers also delve on the dynamics between race, gender and sexuality in their discussions.

Ethnic studies teachers initiate lively classroom discussions by first introducing the topics for the day. They may do this in a straightforward manner through the lecture-discussion method, by sharing a story that would relate to the lesson or by asking students thought-provoking questions. For younger students, teachers may start lessons by introducing a native song or poem of the group being discussed or by showing them a film or teaching them a native dance.

An ethnic studies classroom is often vibrant and interesting because students learn about various cultures and are able to gain a deeper understanding as to why they act in certain ways. Through their discussions, ethnic studies teachers have the power to foster acceptance of the diversities that characterize schools, communities, states, nations and the world and in doing so minimize the incidences of discrimination that constantly plague societies.

They assign various activities to students to enhance their understanding of the lesson. These can include individual and group reports, cultural presentations and other activities. In order to gauge if students have understood the lesson, teachers administer tests regularly. They may also conduct graded recitation in the classroom. They also assign homework and research reports to students so they can gain a deeper understanding of the topic.

To guide their students on the concepts that will be discussed, ethnic studies teachers prepare course syllabi and handouts. They also recommend books that the students can use as references for the course. As education goes digital today, teachers may also point students to online resources that will deepen their understanding of various topics.

Keeping a record of the student’s scores in tests, homework, seat-work and other activities is also part and parcel of the work of an ethnic studies teacher. This is important as it will be used to determine the final grade of the student after the school year is over. They also keep track of the student’s attendance since this is also a component in their grades.

Ethnic studies teachers don’t just confine their students to the classroom. They also lead students in field trips to places that will enhance their understanding of the ethnic group they are studying. These can be in historical places, museums and communities where a particular racial group resides. Ethnic studies teachers also need to make sure that the activity is sanctioned by the school and that the appropriate number of chaperones will accompany the group to ensure the safety of the students.

In order to help students with their research work and other difficulties they may encounter about their lesson, ethnic studies teachers maintain regular office hours. Undergraduate and graduate students who are already doing their thesis often see teachers during their scheduled office hours since they don’t anymore have regular classroom meetings but are already in the field doing their research work. Students who are also performing their independent studies in racial and ethnic communities also need to consult with them regularly, making the maintenance of regular office hours an important part of their job.

Ethnic studies teachers are also responsible for keeping their knowledge about the field up-to-date. They need to learn about what is happening in the field of racial diversity, social movements, indigenous peoples, immigration laws and other topics related to ethnic studies by reading the news, attending professional conferences and conferring with fellow teachers and colleagues working with these ethnicities. Many ethnic studies teachers conduct their own research in a particular aspect about race and racism and publicize their findings in journals and magazines and websites or write their own books. They also present their findings in conferences and seminars.

Career Spotlight: Ethnic Studies Teacher

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