Implementing Classroom Diversity
Final Exam- Krista Koehler
Whether we like to admit it or not, racial, gender, and socioeconomic differences do play a huge role in the classroom, workplace, and society. My district is typically viewed as being very well off and my school in particular is 93.8% white, only 4.9% free and reduced. Of all of the white teachers at my school, only one 1 them is male. Most of our students participate in a variety of extracurricular activities, from dance, to soccer, to art classes, or karate, our students do it all. Parents are busy from the time their children get out of school to the time they go to bed shuttling their children from activity to activity. Parent involvement within our school is also very high, so high in fact that we often have to turn parents away when field trip chaperones become too full. While we are lucky to have a school in this higher socioeconomic neighborhood, it does make the less fortunate stand out even more. Those students that come from the less fortunate families often are not participating in all of the school and extracurricular activities. Their families are not always attending the open houses or school plays. These students may not have the latest and greatest pair of Nike shoes or all of the school supplies they need throughout the school year. Other students do begin to notice these things as they age, and unfortunately, a lot of these students begin to be treated differently.
I do think that a lack of support at home make the teacher's job more difficult, but I also think that I need to be a little more understanding to the reasons for the parents' lack of support. I think some teachers can be quick to think that parents just don't care, while in reality, parents could be distant from the school for a variety of reasons. Parents may not know what their role in their child's education may be, have cultural differences, not the have the knowledge or resources to help, or may just be too busy with work, other kids, or life at home. I think this can become a big problem in many classrooms if teachers are not willing to find ways to reach out to these parents, and therefore lead to students suffering even more. While my own personal classroom does not have much diversity, I think it is important to remember that you don't always know what is going on in a child's home and to be flexible and understanding. To better serve both the students and parents of my class, there are a few steps I could take. I could work with the other kindergarten teachers to find less intimidating ways to reach out to parents while still providing them with the resources they need to better support their children. This may be through parent information nights, open houses, sending home information and tools to use with students at home, etc... Making the parents feel welcomed and showing them that there is always an open line of communication can be very beneficial to both parents and students.
When reading about the gender differences throughout this course, I found many points that I agreed with, but also a few that seemed to differ from my own personal experience. This year I have 24 students in class, 14 of which are boys and 10 are girls. While girls are typically expected to be the ones to be the ones to come out on top academically in elementary school, I have noticed that my boys tend to be higher, and also choose to participate in the classroom more. The girls in my class tend to be the ones to hold back a little, and are also many of the students that are in RTI. In other instances where boys may seem to be the ones falling behind, I can see where more male teachers in the building could be very beneficial. As I mentioned earlier, my elementary school only has one male teacher and he is often given many responsibilities in which a father figure at school would be appropriate.
In high school, as well as my undergraduate studies, I was shown the video of Jane Elliott's original A Class Divided experiment in which she divided her own third grade students by their eye color. From the start of watching her most recent exercises titles How Racist Are You? I was immediately intrigued. Watching the video, we think that eye color is something so crazy to judge a person by, but when you really think about it, how is eye color any different than skin color? One of the quotes from Jane Elliott that stood out to me the most was when she said that "there is no way to win, it is a lose lose situation. They might as well sit here and take it because there is nothing they can do about it" in regards to the blue eyed group. Because people are often so beaten down by others about their race, they start to believe the things that are said about them. It was actually a very depressing realization. I think this could somewhat be related to the gender differences we read about as well. Gender, like race, is something we are born with. People should not be penalized for being different, no matter what that difference may be.
With everything I have learned in this course, I will put in place a plan to better implement diversity into my classroom.
Description of Plan/Methods
- Ask students to pronounce their names for you correctly and tell you something about them, whether that be what they mean or who they were named after.
- Ask students to bring a family item to share with the class.
- Ask students to draw a self portrait to see how students "see" their own skin color.
- Try to meet or speak to the families of each of your students to learn about them and the ways they learn best.
- Use music to welcome students to the classroom and for brain breaks throughout the day. You can also use music and song to remember material.
- As a teacher I will adapt my instruction and curriculum to meet the needs of culturally diverse learners.
- Talk to educators from culturally diverse groups.
- Do home visits or visit students at their extra-curricular activities and observe students with their families.
- As a teacher, I will greet each and every student at the door asking about their day and welcoming them to class. Once students are settled, I will walk around the classroom touching each student lightly on the shoulder to assess the emotional tone of the class and see if any students are having a bad day.
- The principal could do walk-throughs on a daily or weekly basis as well, assessing each and every teacher and student in the building. While this may seem time consuming, the connections made with teachers and students could be well worth it.
- As a teacher, I can implement diversity into my classroom by building relationships with my students. I can do that by offering warm welcomes, connecting the lessons to students' lives, using humor, holding high expectations, having students talk with each other, talking to students one on one, having students work with others, differentiating material, teaching to all learning styles, using good classroom management techniques, talking to students at the end of the day, etc...
Connecting with Families
- I can connect with families through weekly and monthly newsletters, emails and conversations at pick-up, open houses, and parent teacher conferences. I can also hold family nights in my classroom for parents to get resources to help students at home.
- I can also better connect with families by respecting all voices and bridging language barriers, ask parents to volunteer to be a part of the school day, ask parents/grandparents to share personal stories or family history, or invite students to bring in pictures of their families to share with the class.
- While I am very lucky to have such high parent involvement in my school and classroom, it always seems that the parents of the students you need to reach the most are the most difficult to get in touch with. I will need to work through this obstacle and find ways that these parents might be comfortable in communicating with me in order to best help their child.
- I think all teachers can agree that time will always be an obstacle in the classroom, especially with new common core standards and standardized testing requirements.
- Diverse students learn best in a variety of ways, so teachers must find new and exciting ways to prevent their lessons. Finding the resources to teach students in all of these ways could be a challenge.
Some additional obstacles of education are discussed in the video below:
T. (2014). Verna Myers: How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly toward them. Retrieved May 02, 2016, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYyvbgINZkQ
Introduction: Teaching in Diverse, Standards-Based Classrooms. (n.d.). Retrieved May 02, 2016, from http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/109011/chapters/Introduction@_Teaching_in_Diverse,_Standards-Based_Classrooms.aspx
Weekly Readings and Materials from EDG 606 Leadership in a Diverse Society