Life During Quarantine has been a long lesson for so many. I thought of all things that have come into focus since we started staying at home. Homeschooling was a big part of 2020. Our students in many cases thrived, and other cases accentuated the differences in different economic groups. We saw the upheaval of our work, homes, schools, even politics. The one theme that has come into the light for me: Are we teaching diversity: yes, or no?
Diversity can be defined as everything that makes people different from each other.This includes many different factors: race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, ability, age, religious belief, or political conviction.
All these factors work together to inform how students (and teachers, and everyone else) encounter the world.
So many things we have been reading or seeing in our world have been including diversity. Is it there? How long has it been there? Why hasn’t it been important until now? How can we all come together?
I was blessed to be raised in a family where I was taught that everyone is equal. I am from the Northeast, so there has been a great part of our history about freedom. Our country was founded on that principle. We have had varying degrees of success in keeping true to our founding fathers. There is much to be said about this topic. I think by being brave enough to start the discussion, many topics will come to light especially those related to prices and politics! With school starting soon I thought I would delve into the things I found out about curriculum.
Curriculum plays a large role in shaping a school’s academic outcomes and speaks largely to a school’s priorities in creating a culture of belongingness, its collective commitment to dismantling racism, and appreciation of diversity. There are practices designed to support building curriculum to meet the needs of students from a variety of racial, gender, socioeconomic status, ethnic, or ability backgrounds. For schools, school districts, or Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) to move toward more effective integration and equitable outcomes for all their stakeholders, schools, systems and structures must create an environment that facilitates student outcomes that align with the ABCD’s. ABCDs | Reimagining Integration – Diverse and Equitable Schools (harvard.edu)
|Academics||All students have strong academic preparation, capitalizing on and connecting to students of all backgrounds, with high levels of knowledge and skills.|
|Belonging||All students have a strong sense and appreciation of their own culture and heritage, as well as of those of their diverse classmates.|
|Commitment to dismantling racism and oppression||All students understand the role that institutional racism and other forms or oppression play in our society and have the skills, vision, and courage to dismantle them.|
|Diversity||All students appreciate and value different perspectives, thoughts, and people and have friendships and collaborative working relationships with students and adults from different racial and economic backgrounds|
Teachers, leaders, and stakeholders interested in driving change must consider the wide range of elements that interact within the systems and structures that persist in public education. These broader systems and structures can range from those at a micro-level (i.e., within schools), like no-excuses school discipline or ability group tracking, to a macro level (i.e., district or CMO-wide systems), like the structures of student assignment and teacher diversity. https://rides.gse.harvard.edu/curriculum
What does diversity in the classroom help with?
- It builds better thinkers
- It improves academic outcomes
- It involves more students
How to encourage more diversity in school:
- Examine your teaching materials
- Get to know your students
- Be willing to address inequality
- Connect with parents and the community
- Meet diverse learning needs
- Hire diversely
- Support Professional Development Opportunities
As an Optimist in the Kensington area of San Diego, we would go to the local elementary school in an economically disadvantaged area. We would have a monthly program for the students, giving out student of the month awards. Classrooms that had full attendance would get an award, like an ice cream party or something for the whole class to participate in. I would attend and give out things like pencils for good behavior. Many families worked multiple jobs, kids were caretaking and the extra items like school supplies were precious. There were backpacks made for the children we weren’t sure would eat when school was out of session. The principal was an African American who understood that he was also being a role model for the children to aspire to. The population was diverse, so there was less focus on what your background was, more on encouragement to learn. Recently there is an event that went national.
The optimist chapter I am in now, Home – Optimist Club of Coronado, sponsors the sports teams among others in Coronado. A basketball tournament went viral because of a combination of events: school rivalries, heated exchanges between parents and coaches, and a fan throwing tortillas in triumph. It has been under investigation and the school that one it was the first time they won in 100 years. It became a racial event. The Coronado school district is in a wealthier district, but the student population due to the navy base nearby is quite diverse, and not the perceived all-white wealthy students’ others imagine. Column: Throwing tortillas isn’t a racist act — until it is – Los Angeles Times (latimes.com)
Understandably being excluded from the group because of being different is a whole other story. Personally, I have had the experience since grade school to be made fun of for being smart, having glasses, braces, my mother taught in the school I attended, and for being chubby and creative. It is not an easy task to change ones thinking or programs in school. In my opinion, the more we realize we are all from the tribe of humanity, and including others and working together, will help us all as a planet to get through this turbulent time of a pandemic.