CELEBRATING DIVERSITY IN THE CLASSROOM IS IMPORTANT
When I was in the 1st grade, I was the only Caucasian female in my class. All the other girls were African American. I honestly never thought this was a big deal. People were people and I loved my classmates and I definitely loved school. My best friend was not the same color as me, neither was the first boy I had a crush on. At the time, my dad played drums and sang in a blues band and two of the band members were married, one black and one white. I don’t ever remember questioning that or thinking it was weird. I just loved those people!
We moved two years later and I attended a school where more children looked like me. As a child, this didn’t matter to me. I never felt out of place at the previous school. I think that is the beauty of young children, they do not live in a cultural box. They have the ability to see people for people and nothing more.
As I got older, I really didn’t understand why people even spoke of skin color or cultural difference. Goodness, I was born into Catholicism and when I was in the 2nd grade, I came home and asked my parents if I could be a Baptist. They let me go wherever the wind blew me so I decided to convert and I did. Ha.
Now that I am grown, I am so thankful for the experiences I had in my childhood. I am thankful that I didn't live in a cultural box. For much of my childhood, we were poor. I don’t really remember that either though. I just remember the people and the memories with my family. All of them. Now, I did get teased but not because of my skin color, wealth or ever changing religion. Let’s just say, I was born a plus size model. Ha.
Fast forward to adulthood and now I am a wife, mother of three young adults and a growing passion for education. I would love to say that the climate of the world has changed for the better, but I don’t believe that is the case. We live in a world consumed with comparison, which definitely is the thief of joy. People have lost their ability to be kind and love one another. It’s disheartening. I do believe that we are all capable though. It has to start somewhere. For me, it started in my home and always overflowed into my classroom.
Teachers spend more time with children than anyone else and have the opportunity to really make a difference in our cultural climate. A student’s success is highly impacted and affected by school culture, which is why it is important that the celebration of diversity in the classroom is made a priority. Though the subject of diversity may not be included (as it should be) in a teacher’s daily objectives, it is necessary in creating a classroom climate of family and a celebration of what makes each person unique.
Being aware of their cultures, their ethnicity, their language, their color and their physical ability can affect student’s performance in a negative or positive way, depending on how they are received in in the classroom. Teachers have the ability to teach children the importance of self-worth and the importance of celebrating their individual differences. Why is this so important?
DIVERSITY IS BROAD: Diversity is not straight forward and direct. It can be broad and confusing. Schools are advised to encourage the celebration of diversity for this main reason. There are so many differences between ethnic groups and racial groups but also many similarities if we take the time to really learn about one another. Different cultural characteristics may be shared by students from very different families and backgrounds but are unknown unless the uniqueness of each child recognized and embraced.
CULTURAL AWARENESES: Each culture is so unique. When children understand and share how that they speak different languages, have different beliefs and come from various backgrounds, it helps other children embrace the beauty of what makes them unique. Instead of setting themselves apart, we celebrate how we are a different but together we share the same love language and that is what makes a family, even a classroom family. Allow students to bring clothing, food, and mementos that reflect their culture to create a greater understanding is important.
STEREOTYPES: Celebrating diversity will open a whole new door to a different kind of thinking and understanding for each student. They need to understand that it is totally okay that we are all from different families and backgrounds. Together we can still learn and grow. Teach students the importance of knowing each person is an individual and it’s important that we don’t categorize people.
LEARNING CAN BE IMPROVED: By laying a knowledgeable foundation for diversity, we have the ability to enhance students’ social expectations, habits and ability to work together without preconceived impairments. Children are born with the ability to unconditionally love all people. We need to foster and grow that to create a climate of love as they grow into adults.
Here are a few book suggestions.
How are you promoting and celebrating diversity in your classroom? Did you find new ways to do this successfully and achieve greater results? Share your experiences below with us.
You may share my frustration with today’s cultural climate (and intolerance) but just being frustrated is not enough. Change starts with one person and it can start with you. This is not a political post so please do not interpret it to be. This is about our ability to be a living example of a loving person. If anything, we can always be kind.