06 January 2009

Education Guiding Principles: Diversity

One thing I heard over and over during my elementary school was that this country is a melting pot. We have cultures and ideas from around the world that all contribute to making this the great country it is. And, even though I grew up in an inner city neighborhood in the Midwest, looking around my classes all I saw were pretty much other white kids.

Now, so many years later, when I talk to my students about what they learn in their Social Studies classes, they don’t hear about that melting pot, but just look around any class and you’ll see it.

Diversity is here to stay in our culture, which includes our classrooms. As a teacher, it takes on a new aspect in the effort of learning. Why? Because students have different moods and behaviors each day. Because students have different learning skill sets. Because students have different emotional needs. Because students have different perspectives….. and so on and so forth until, as a teacher, I realized the most important ingredient about my classes is the diversity of the students. With the appropriate teacher effort, the diversity of students in class can provide students with real life examples of "the outside world" every day during studies..... aka building social skills while building also building academic skills.

So why am I carrying on about diversity as a teacher? I think the national curriculum we are promoting in schools, even though no one officially calls it such, is pushing teachers to homogenize classes and lessons. This is our 21st century response to better education - mass producing students using a test gauntlet that begins in middle school. Nurturing student diversity, thus classroom diversity, is a key to enhancing the learning skills and social skills of students.

The Blue School is an example of very naturally including diversity in learning. If you get a chance to review their mission statement and results you’ll be amazed, like I am, at what the concentrated effort of a few people can produce.

Happy 2009! Jack

PS: Wanna start the new year with an excellent teacher read? Try Dumbing Us Down by John Taylor Gatto who is an an award winning teacher In New York.

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