A Teacher’s Perspective on Diversity in the American Classroom
Mid-way through my second year of teaching I decided to try adding current event discussions through the use of Socratic Seminars. For those that are unfamiliar: Socratic Seminars allow students to use logic and data evaluation to validate their argument through debate. This single activity really opened my eyes to the diversity of my students.
One of the most rewarding moments as a teacher is when your students are able to look past their own bias and come to understand an alternative point of view.
In a world full of content, standards, taxonomies and essential questions it can be easy to forget about the skills we should be teaching. Luckily there has been a shift in education that recognizes collaboration as an important teachable skill which encourages peer relationships and student development.
Part of student development is understanding how to work alongside others who may not be like-minded. My classroom is a cultural mosaic; representative of America’s rich diversity. My students hail from a variety of different backgrounds and cultures. It is my sincere belief that it would be a disservice to my students to only focus on content and not discuss the diversity they see around them.
As a social studies teacher at both the high school and middle school level, I pride myself in trying to create a classroom atmosphere of curiosity, compassion and understanding. This has lead to a variety of respectful conversations in class, ranging from modern topics such as Black Lives Matter, to more traditional topics, such as cultural holidays. Some of my “magical teacher moments” have come from students sharing and discussing different cultures and current events openly with others, while being met with compassion and respect.
Celebrating diversity in the classroom and giving students a platform to speak can be daunting, but equally rewarding. As educators we can help set the tone. That being said, I want to leave you with a few tips I’ve learned:
- Learn about your students’ cultures along with your own! Telling a personal story about a cultural tradition you have, can help students open up about their own!
- Be sure to have cross-cultural materials and information in the classroom, or strategically placed within a lesson plan. This encourages curiosity and helps students better understand one another.
- Be mindful of a student’s relationships in and out of school. Not only does this help you better understand your student, but also may help you leverage the support of parents! [There are great apps out there to help translate communication to parents, such as ClassTag!]
- Don’t forget: learning about a student’s heritage and linguistic background can better help you serve a student in terms of academics.
This year I challenge you to mindfully teach compassion, understanding and respect in the classroom. As educators it is important that we impart to our students the value of having a country with a rich cultural mosaic. With that, I wish you a great school year!