Teaching Diversity to a Diverse Classroom by Chelsea Foster

As our education system becomes more and more diverse it’s important to create a knowledge base of what it means to teach diversity to a diverse classroom. It’s important to not “acknowledge” our differences but to “celebrate” them. Using, the “blind” approach to teaching diversity will only demonstrate partial progress toward creating an equitable classroom environment.

BACKGROUND

There has always been diversity in the classroom. In today’s educational environment we celebrate our unique differences from each other because of the negative connotation that is generally involved in “being different.” Celebrating cultural background and recognizing that every one is unique can help our future generations take huge strides toward being a more welcoming generation of students and adults (NDT).

This is an equity issue because generally teachers want to teach “blindly” or teach students to be “blind” to differences. By teaching “blindly” you’re ignoring the uniqueness of each person, insinuating that everyone is the same, and therefore creating thoughts of discrimination for those that may appear different. When teaching children about diversity it’s important to acknowledge that every one is unique in their own way and that doesn’t make any one’s way right or wrong. If children are not told otherwise they will automatically assume that every one lives the same way, celebrates the same traditions, loves the same gender, and is supposed to have the same color skin (Authentic Organizations).

HOW DIVERSITY IMPACTS THE CLASSROOM

Ignoring and not teaching diversity is the same as a teacher assuming every child is at the same reading, math, science, and writing level. Not teaching diversity can result in some students missing that sense of “belonging” to a classroom. Feeling uncomfortable in a classroom setting will cause students to withdraw from activities by decreasing their participation or through their feelings of inadequacy. These very withdrawn behaviors can also cause teachers to make incorrect assumptions on a students abilities. It’s also possible for teachers to feel this way as well. It’s important that every one in the room is accepting of differences and understands that every one is unique. Without this, the classroom morale diminishes. A big example of this is in our education system we have an increased number of African American students being over-identified in Special Education. This very statistic could be a result of lack of diversity in the classroom or lack of understanding of ones background.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF DIVERSITY

According to Authentic Organizations there are four different categories of diversity; identity, value, cognitive, and behavioral diversity. Identity diversity is related to a person’s social-physical characteristics such as race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and physical ability. Value diversity is related to a persons’ belief systems. Cognitive diversity refers to what we know; our experiences, learning styles, intelligence, and differences in perception. Finally, our behavioral diversity refers to our personality styles and how we interact with others. The different types of diversity can be related but are never the exact same. It’s important to teach that we may have similarities but we are all unique and have different ideas that aren’t necessarily right or wrong.

STRATEGIES FOR TEACHING AND APPRECIATING DIVERSITY

We have strategies that are being shared but many teachers still are not using them in their classrooms. According to Teacher Vision, a lot of the success of culturally diverse students rides on the teachers behavior. Teacher Vision asks that teachers appreciate and accommodate the similarities and differences among the students' cultures, build relationships with students, focus on the ways students learn and observe students to identify their task orientations, and teach students to match their behaviors to the setting. Using a variety of instructional strategies and learning activities will allow more opportunities for students to discover what kind of learners they are. When developing the many instructional strategies and learning activities it’s important to take every students’ culture and language skills into account so you can better understand their learning style. Monitoring your students skills is also important so you can correct anything that isn’t working for the individual student.

TAKING ACTION

There are many articles about teaching diversity, along side these articles there are many strategies and activities that classrooms can engage in. There are also many classes that teachers are required to take and these offer many lessons on diversity and the correct approaches that should be taken. So to answer the question, educators and administrators are spreading the word about diversity through the internet and through the education of our future teachers.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT TO ME & MY PERSONAL THOUGHTS

Diversity in a classroom doesn’t just involve cultural differences, it also involves gender differences and disability differences. To me, it’s important that teachers have a knowledge base of how to teach to these students so in my future classroom I will be able to teach to diversity effectively. I personally think that teaching diversity to young children, when they are the most impressionable, is a very important step in a child’s development. When a child is understanding that not every one is the same and understands that it is okay, this generally can help a child’s self-esteem and accept who they are as an individual early on in life, a child’s ability to interact with those that appear different from them, and promotes acceptance of different life styles and an understanding that not every one lives the same way. I think that introducing these types of topics into an elementary school curriculum, although at times difficult, will leave a longer lasting impression on the students.

Sources

Project, Harvard Family Research. "How Can We Prepare Teachers to Work withCulturally Diverse Students and Their Families? What Skills Should Educators Develop to Do This Successfully?" How Can We Prepare Teachers to Work with Culturally Diverse Students and Their Families? What Skills Should Educators Develop to Do This Successfully? / Member Insights / FINE: Family Involvement Network of Educators / Family Involvement / HFRP - Harvard Family Research Project. Harvard Family Research Project, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2016. <http://www.hfrp.org/family-involvement/fine-family-involvement-network-of-educators/member-insights/how-can-we-prepare-teachers-to-work-with-culturally-diverse-students-and-their-families-what-skills-should-educators-develop-to-do-this-successfully>.

Davis, Matt. "Preparing for Cultural Diversity: Resources for Teachers." Edutopia. N.p., 29 Aug. 2013. Web. 19 Nov. 2016. <https://www.edutopia.org/blog/preparing-cultural-diversity-resources-teachers>.

"Diversity." Diversity. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2016. <https://www.nde-ed.org/TeachingResources/ClassroomTips/Diversity.htm>.

Harquail, CV. "For Diversity & Inclusion, Don’t Treat All Differences The Same." Authentic Organizations RSS. N.p., 05 Nov. 2010. Web. 19 Nov. 2016. <http://authenticorganizations.com/harquail/2010/11/05/dont-treat-every-difference-as-diversity/#sthash.xjSTD2zz.dpbs>.

"Culture in the Classroom." Culture in the Classroom | Teaching Tolerance - Diversity, Equity and Justice. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2016. <http://www.tolerance.org/culture-classroom>.

Burnette, Jane. "Strategies for Teaching Culturally Diverse Students." TeacherVision. N.p., 1999. Web. 19 Nov. 2016. <https://www.teachervision.com/teaching-methods/resource/6039.html>.

"Diversity in the Classroom | Center for Teaching and Learning." Diversity in the Classroom | Center for Teaching and Learning. Yale University, n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2016. <http://ctl.yale.edu/teaching/ideas-teaching/diversity-classroom>.

Credits:

Created with images by Alexas_Fotos - "school study learn" • US Department of Education - "05062014 ED Goes Back to School 15" • Bessi - "child children girl" • FreeWorld - "children children playing children's" • Lead Beyond - "children" • vereinballschule - "handball children back" • Wonder woman0731 - "School diversity many hands held together" • cherylholt - "girls children kids"

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