In today’s age, we are becoming more and more culturally and ethnically diverse in all aspects of life. It spans across educational backgrounds, religion, language, race, ethnicity and geography. In spite of diversity that surrounds us most schools do not take a proactive approach to acknowledging diversity. There are numerous reasons why schools, parents and teachers alike should acknowledge diversity.
Why Acknowledge Diversity?
Diversity contributes to the richness of any environment. Students who are exposed to different cultures, backgrounds learn to respect and value people’s differences. They will develop an understanding of perspectives of different backgrounds and will also learn to function in a multicultural environment. This will also get them ready to be a part of any multicultural democracy.
A school that is diverse in faculty, staff as well as students has an enhanced environment of learning. It gives everyone a chance to experience different things that they are normally not accustomed to. Students in such schools will be more motivated and will very well be able to fit into any heterogeneous or complex society.
Despite the benefits of having a diverse staff, faculty and students, there are still several challenges that need to be addressed and overcome. Several studies have shown that minority faculty members and women are less satisfied in some aspects that their counterparts. These aspects often include professional relations with colleagues, salary, promotion and overall job satisfaction. It is the case with minority students as well. They often feel isolated and unwelcome and are often victims of discrimination and differential treatment.
Researches have also shown that the lack of previous positive experiences among minority members and majority creates an anxious environment. The resulting atmosphere is sometimes hostile. Another challenge that most diverse institutions face is that people hold unconscious assumptions and their judgements and interactions are mostly influenced. The assumptions and expectations are often based on physical and social characteristic like gender, age, race and ethnicity.
Conflicts are natural in a diverse environment, but overcoming them and making it an advantage ultimately lies in the hands of parents and teachers.So, what can teachers and parents to help students understand and embrace diversity?
Role of Teachers: It is the responsibility of the teacher to ensure that no child is left behind and there is no achievement gap among diverse groups.Regardless of their ethnic background or language difference, the goal should be see that all students thrive. Structured class room activities are a great way to highlight and acknowledge different perspectives. The teacher can create diverse learning groups, wherein each student will be required to contribute to the group. This method will make students realize that each one is important and has something valuable to say.
Another very important factor that a teacher needs to take a conscious effort is mutual respect. Disrespect for fellow students should not be tolerated. Ground rules should be established; even the kids can be included to help establish these rules. A cordial environment where opinions and perspectives of others are valued should be modelled for students.
Role of Parents: It’s not about strategies or suggestions that can make a difference. It’s more about having the right mind set and teaching your children ways to support and welcome people from all backgrounds. The best way to start would be to broaden your social horizon. As a family socialize with people with whom you would not normally associate. Arrange dinner parties, invite new friends over or simply create situations wherein you can interact with parents of other children. Engage your kids in real conversations about diversity. As you start such conversations, their curiosity will grow and will expand their cognitive and social skills.
Parents can also play a part in promoting a positive environment in school. Find your school, pay attention to how the school addresses the needs and wants of diverse students. If you notice any different discipline consequences for different set of students, then make sure you express your concern. Observe of the student leadership group is ethnically diverse, if not question.
On the whole, it is the joint effort of parents, students and teachers alike to create a community that welcomes, listens and accepts people and ideas that are different from their own. When parents and teachers play their role, the school will be transformed into a warm, welcoming community.