Teachers and educators from across the United States and beyond received an opportunity to deepen their understanding of multicultural education on Wednesday, Jan. 18, when Central State University’s Institute of Urban Education held its ninth annual National Urban Education Conference.
The annual event began in 2003 and was envisioned as a conference that would address the issues facing students in large, urban areas. The event started off small, with the first conference only drawing 35 people. Attendance increased, however, attracting visitors from several states, including Pennsylvania, Washington, D.C., North Carolina, California, Colorado, New York, Michigan and Illinois. As popularity and interest grew, the conference began to transcend national boundaries.
“We actually had a young gentleman from Belize come to the conference,” said Philip Coates, the program coordinator at the Institute of Urban Education. “That’s when we began joking about it being an international conference. But it is very much a national conference.”
According to Coates, 475 to 525 people attended this year’s conference. Entitled, “Multicultural Education: Becoming Culturally Relevant in the 21st Century,” this year’s event explored the challenges faced by educators who are trying to acquire a skill set that includes culture as an important tool. Cultural relevance, says Dr. Kaye Manson Jeter, the executive director of the Institute of Urban Education, requires that educators integrate the daily activities of the larger community into their lessons and the learning experience.
“Many times we want to find all sorts of reasons why a student doesn’t learn in our classes,” said Jeter. “But we need to look at ourselves. If something happens in the community, you have to take what happened and do something with it when you start to teach.”
Many attendees came to hear the keynote speaker, Ed Dunkelblau. A licensed clinical psychologist, Dunkelblau is past president of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor and a consultant for Fortune 500 companies on the applications of social-emotional intelligence in the work environment. While speaking with his audience, Dunkelblau emphasized the importance of good social and emotional skills. He explored various definitions of success, pointing out that none of the models of success can be achieved without the cultivation and development of social-emotional intelligence.
Global thinker and author David Livermore also took the stage at the conference, sharing ideas and concepts that appear in his new book, The Cultural Intelligence Difference. Livermore provided his audience with an understanding and definition of cultural intelligence, the ability to meaningfully and adequately instruct students from across a wide cultural spectrum. He helped attendees assess their cultural intelligence and provided practical ways of improving cultural intelligence.