It’s a known fact that a positive school culture directly correlates with student success, which is why including and celebrating diversity in K-12 education is extremely important. Diversity can be defined as the inclusion of different types of people. This includes, but is not limited to: race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, culture, and religion. The first step for teachers when introducing diversity in the classroom is to determine how each student is unique.
Although it may seem straight forward to expect educators to provide students the opportunity to learn about different cultures and languages, there are some growing challenges teachers and administrators face when trying to introduce diversity in school.
The National Education Association explains that academic achievement gaps between students of diverse backgrounds, gender inequalities and sex discrimination, bullying and harassment of students who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, and respecting students of all religious backgrounds are all murky waters teachers have found difficult to navigate. As these topics are sensitive for many, it is a daunting task to suggest bringing these differences into the classroom. The NEA also states “Institutional hurdles such as high-stakes testing and the lack of resources for "nonessential" subjects make addressing the issue of diversity even more challenging.”
Bringing cultural and sensitive topics into the classroom can give your students a sense of belonging, and this sense of belonging has a domino effect. Excite Education claims “if a student doesn’t feel like they belong, or that they aren’t valued for who they are, they’re less likely to have any interest in being involved in the class.” A student who does not feel included is likely to show a decrease in participation and short attention span, both of which do not lead to academic success.
How to Promote Diversity in Education
- Understand Your Students
Every student in your classroom is different, which is why understanding each of them as an individual is important. Take time to look at their strengths and weaknesses, personality traits, relationships with other students, and their learning styles. Doing this will show your students that you’re invested in them, and that you care. Like mentioned above, investing your time in getting to know your students will give them a sense of belonging, and in turn they will be present in class and more likely to participate.
- Challenge Diversity Stereotypes
There are a lot of unfair stereotypes out there for several cultural backgrounds. Instead of avoiding the subject all together, consider challenging these stereotypes in a sensitive way. Tes Education states “these topics should not be avoided and evidence suggests that learning to challenge stereotypes in one significant domain (e.g., gender) can also translate to others (e.g., race or religion).” It’s also encouraged to bring in teaching material that represents the rich diversity of the world. Include material that shows many different perspectives and exposes students to a variety of diverse cultures.
- Celebrate Diversity & Culture
Teachers should encourage diversity in education by celebrating each student’s culture and individual diverse background. A simple way to do this is targeted seating plans. Maybe switch up the classroom and promote cooperative learning activities that prompt students to interact with a neighbor they may not speak to often. Another way to promote diversity in school is to have all of your students present and share stories about their family history and heritage. Tes Education suggests trying different kinds of food together, or marking festivals as a class. Your students could showcase their diversity in a picture presentation, play, or even a short movie project. Make it fun, educational and inclusive – and don’t forget to involve parents!
At Alert Solutions we appreciate the hard work teachers put in when educating the students of today. Introducing suggestions on how to include diversity in education is just one way we can help our customers.
For more helpful resources, check out our Education Resource Center for tips, tricks, and strategies!