Diversity is Awesome!

Incorporating diverse perspectives in the classroom

Environment

I've tried to keep my decor fairly neutral--I do not want to project an image of only one kind of person as the typical Spanish speaker. I want to take every opportunity to remind my students that the Spanish-speaking world is large and varied, and that it is slowly growing to include them as well. The look and feel of my classroom will ideally be welcoming and reflective of not only the diversity of the students but the greater diversity out here in the wide world.

I have worked hard to encourage my students to feel comfortable in my class, and to set up a supportive environment. This is something that has been fairly successful in a couple of my classes, but is an almost constant struggle with a couple other classes. In fact I just had to give my 7th period a serious talking-to yesterday because they would not stop poking fun at each other. I stressed how important it is for students of a foreign language to feel safe from any kind of harm or hassle, whether physical or emotional/verbal, because I need them to feel comfortable putting themselves out there and making mistakes.

I don't have any photos of my students, I'll have to work on that, but I have some photos of their work and some little tidbits here and there that I've captured to brighten my day and look back on when I start to wonder what made me think I could handle this teaching thing :)

Curriculum

I often incorporate images into my lessons, and whenever I use images of people, I am very intentional about showing a range of ages, colors, hairstyles, etc. I make a point to include as great a range of diversity as possible in any materials I create for my classes. In art class, and it has even come up a couple times in Spanish class too, when students ask how to make "skin color" I ask "whose skin color?" and take the opportunity to remind them that there are a pretty wide range of skin tones out there, and I am not going to assume that they basically mean "peach." When I created an example character for a project, I gave her the most interesting combination of features I could think of. I did not give her a "skin color" skin tone, I did not give her a typically "feminine" hairstyle, and I dressed her in an intentionally "androgynous" outfit.

I have taken as many opportunities as I can find to remind my students that it is okay to just be themselves, and I have tried to teach by example, embracing my own differences, and complementing students sincerely on things that showcase their individuality.

Relationships

One of the reasons I took my job here at Eastside is because of the emphasis the principle I interviewed with put on the importance of building meaningful relationships with students. I have been working on getting to know my students, asking follow-up questions when they say something about their weekend, and I will continue to get to know them as the year continues, and hopefully beyond for at least some of them. There are some students who are simply easy to talk to and interested in me, and these students are wonderful. But I have also developed good relationships with a couple of students who at first were not at all easy to talk to, but once they realized that I really do care about them and want them to succeed (or, for example, reach their goal of getting up to a passing grade so that they can play basketball), they were willing to work with me and talk more with me about themselves. I have asked students about what kind of music they like, even listened to some terrible rapper that a student recommended and talked to her about it, and I have taken some requests for songs in Spanish that students like. I often try to play music that I think my students will like, based on what I've learned so far about their cultures and their tastes, but I also haven't given up on exposing them to different musical styles, and sometimes a student will surprise me with an appreciative comment. I am building my library of cultural knowledge and my students are hopefully building theirs as well :)