The role of Education is vast. We want children to learn how to read, write/type, understand complex concepts, problem solve, be organised, work collaboratively and learn to be successful and ethical citizens. These are just some of the things that we expect from Education, I am sure you can think of more. Therefore, to be a teacher is an important life-changing endeavour; we should be celebrating the great teachers that do all of these wonderful things AND who aim to do this in a democratic & equitable way.
We know from research that, particularly in the past, the structure of schools and learning were often seen to favour middle- to upper-class families that tend to have high social capital. This has been combated through things like the creation of early child learning practices and differentiated learning models. We know that teachers are trained-in and expected to differentiate their teaching and learning activities to help increase the learning potential of all children/youth. Differentiated instruction is especially important today in our global and multicultural society; in a classroom it is common to have students that struggle with English, have learning disabilities or have different learning styles.
So what about equity? Are we teaching in an equitable way in a democratic classroom environment? I hope so! This is why it is so important that teachers are aware of the concept of the “hidden curriculum”. Our biases, beliefs and accepted stereotypes may impact what we teach, how we teach or what we don’t teach and this could impact negatively on certain students in the classroom. An easy example of this would be an art teacher that only uses male artist examples and this could un/consciously impact negatively on the females in the classroom. Teachers should also be aware of how their actions towards certain students might impact the student’s socio-emotional functioning and impact on the way peers view these students. For example, discussing whether a child’s parent has or has not paid for a school levy in front of all children in the classroom is NOT OK, actually I believe this is morally and socially unjust behaviour. A teacher who does this type of thing is either oblivious to the socio-emotional functioning of children or seriously lacking in care.