Embracing the differences we all possess.

Incorporating Perspective: Embodying Difference

In any environment in which productive and effective learning will take place, there is a need to embrace diversity. The differences that exist between those present in a classroom environment are inherent and are differences to be celebrated. Unfortunately, many people have been dis-empowered over time simply by being categorized into a label that has been traditionally/historically viewed as "less than." Breaking these stereotypes is essential to having a productive learning environment in which all student's needs are met.
In order to make this clear to my students, I will not only accept but celebrate diversity in the classroom. Because I will be sharing a classroom with two other teachers, it is possible that s/he will already have an idea for how to organize the images presented to the class. I feel it is my duty to ensure that the images that are displayed do not alienate or omit the vast differences present in the students that will be in the classroom. In addition to the posters included here, I hope that between the two classrooms, I will be able to display powerful pictures of women of color succeeding in Mathematical careers. I will even find a way to print posters on my own if needed, given that I found it difficult to find inspirational posters of women of color mathematicians. This fact showed me that there may be a missing link in education about celebrating these women.
I am also not sure if my co-teachers will be comfortable with displaying a "safe space" sign in their classroom. This will be a part of one of my first discussions with them. If I am not able to display one in their classrooms, I will still be displaying a sign at my desk in my office where I will meet students. I plan to decorate my office space similarly to my classroom to create an inclusive environment when I am meeting with students one-on-one.

Incorporating Diversity through Curriculum

As I believe that part of Mathematics involves historical context, I hope to incorporate at some point throughout the year a project in which the students choose to study a mathematician who has provided insight to the world. In coordination with my co-teachers, I hope to develop a list of mathematicians who have not come from privileged backgrounds (ie, sexual preference, religious affiliations, race, ethnicity, ability, age, mental health, etc.) and have students complete projects on how these people affected the world of mathematics and how they were able to overcome prejudice.

Similarly, I plan to make incorporation of information about these mathematicians who excelled in their field a regular part of classroom activities. Either through short video clips, Socratic seminars, bell-ringer activities, or "daily facts," I want students to leave the classroom knowing that Math is for everyone and anyone who puts their mind to it.

Encouraging the Expression of Difference

Getting to know my students is essential to having a safe and comfortable classroom environment. One of the first steps in the process of learning about my students' differences will be to gather information from them via a survey about not only their learning style preferences, but their interests and family life. This will serve as an initial tool to get to know some of the differences among my students.

Secondly, talking with my students and getting to know them as individuals will help for me to learn more about their home life situations, their heritage, their history with academics and more. After learning from my students through conversation, I plan to spend time reading and researching about the different cultures, learning styles, and situations that my students find themselves in so that I can learn how to empathize with my students' needs. In different home-cultures, there can be different rules about how to show respect, how to ask questions, how to pronounce words, etc. Knowing these "rules" will help me to better communicate with my students on a daily basis and better show respect for the differences that they bring to the classroom.

I also plan to work with my co-teacher to establish groupings for our students based

on varying measures. I would like to establish a grouping system which would allow for students to be in heterogeneous academic groupings at times when it may be necessary for instruction. At other times, I would like to work with my co-teacher to establish groupings that allow students to get to know each other regardless of their backgrounds.

By using a "get-to-know-you" activity called Concentric Circles, I hope to allow students to also get to know each other better in small group and one-on-one settings. One of the best ways I have found to encourage the celebration of diversity is for students to celebrate each other as friends who embody difference. Though there is sometimes conflict when learning about difference, I plan to establish a culture of respect in the classroom where conflicts in ideas are not ignored but are embraced to the extent that the students involved feel safe and are not being attacked for their difference. By encouraging students to get to know each other and to speak from their experience, I hope to establish a classroom environment where students are comfortable and happy to express the differences that they embody.