Diversity in the City

An Inner-City Orthodox Christian School in Indy

In the Classroom

The school at which I teach is a parish school of Ss. Constantine and Elena Orthodox Christian Church. The reason I bring this up in this post is because of the inherent way that the Orthodox Christian (OC) culture intuitively sets the tone to live out the concepts of diversity, and this makes my efforts at incorporating diversity in the classroom secondary or, at best, an affirmation of the culture that already exists at this school.

Here is an example: The culture of the OC church originated in the Mid-East and spread to the East, so that way of thinking has only recently been introduced to the West. While the West has traditionally been interested in categorizing, separating and dividing (Either-Or), the OC culture seems to be more interested in incorporating, melding and combining (Both-And). For instance, the saints that the parishioners, and the school children venerate (show honor to) are from all different parts of the world: Asians, Africans, Egyptians, Russians, Grecians, Aleuts, Latin Americans, etc. And because the veneration of the saints is practiced every morning at the start of school, the students intuitively learn that all races of people are, indeed, worthy of honor and are to be held in high esteem. In my classroom picture, you will notice icons of the Saints on the walls. They are visible reminders, in each classroom, that all races and genders are equally valued.

Since I share my classrooms, and the way that the rooms are designed, I am not able to add more pictures to my classroom walls.

Big image

In the Curriculum

During our class reading and discussion of Plato's, The Republic, there was a point where Socrates asked the question of just what types of people should be allowed to have the most important jobs of ruling the perfect city-state. This was a great place for me to set up a pre-discussion about what answers the students thought Socrates would finally come up with and also what the students thought themselves. At the beginning of the discussion, the students expressed many different perspectives on how things ought to be in "the perfect city." As we continued on, we began to keep track of the things we all would agree on. The students all agreed that the leaders of "the perfect state" should be chosen because of their abilities and their goodness, any race, any culture, any gender. However, they were all certain that Socrates would only allow men to be chosen. Why? Basically, they reasoned, that only now are people seeing the wisdom of accepting diversity as a norm.

With that discussion under our belts, we continued to read how Socrates would guide the discussion of who should be chosen to rule. Much to their surprise, they found that Socrates was as diversity-minded as they were! Not only should there be no difference in the positions that women and men hold (as soldiers, as well), but also anyone of any background, and any land should be chosen for any position based only upon their merits and abilities to serve. The students were amazed that someone, long ago, could have been such a free thinker! I capped the discussion off by reminding them that anyone is capable of coming up with that understanding if they are willing to be open to truth.

In the Culture

During our regular breakout sessions, I will typically group the students into three groups of two's, with me being one of the two. Each time I will switch partners around so that we are all learning to interact with different partners who have different ways of thinking, different ways of expression and different fundamental ideals.

Also, during the Socratic discussions, I strongly encourage each student to verbally relate their understandings of The Republic to their own background and culture. In this way, we are all able to understand more about the many ways in which we are all unique and alike.

In the Future

My current school is a private, religious school and, therefore, in many ways will be quite a bit different than an "non-theistic" Public school. Of this, I am well aware.

I would, however, structure diversity integration within my teaching in similar ways.

In the Classroom: In lieu of the icons, I would, indeed, place posters of all genders and races, showing honor to all peoples as capable and able to be successful at what they give effort to.

In the Curriculum and In the Culture: I would basically do what I am already doing - find places in the curriculum to incorporate the outlet of diverse perspectives among the students and discover diverse perspectives within our readings, and I would continue to break up smaller groups of students in a diversely integrated manner. The only difference will be that I will have to do this within much larger classrooms. :-o