A place for educators to find thought-provoking news, conversation and support for those who care about diversity, equal opportunity and respect for differences in schools
I felt myself straighten in my chair. I quickly shook off the tiredness of a long day of teaching when our professor explained most of us found it difficult to understand multicultural education “because our viewpoint was that of the white, upper middle class.”
We were encouraged to see that the school system in Durham, N.C., last week agreed to end discriminatory practices that prevent Latino students from receiving an adequate public education.
As a middle school student, I was perplexed by a quote by George Santayana that my history teacher posted on the wall. It read, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” As a budding history teacher, it continued to puzzle me.
As an eighth-grade writing teacher, I routinely focus on reading student writing and utilizing it for several purposes. I am designing effective lessons, creating sound rubrics for assessment, developing peer conferences and monitoring their ability to meet standards and benchmarks. However, I often forget about one of our most important, frequently overlooked roles as writing teachers: our role as listeners.
For more than 20 years, Teaching Tolerance, based in Montgomery, Ala., has worked to help educators embrace the diverse classroom. We strive toward bias-free schools. We advocate acceptance, respect, equality and safety for all students.
For all the wonderful things that diversity brings to a classroom, teaching a diverse group of students can be much more difficult than teaching a seemingly homogeneous one because of our assumptions. Some people are uncomfortable talking about diversity and culture. No one wants to be labeled a racist. I learned this lesson during my fourth year of teaching.
My journalism students were brainstorming topics for their final story projects. I urged them to come up with compelling ideas that relate to their experiences but that push deeply into national trends.
“Stop letting all the midlife writers (like myself) tell your stories,” I pushed. “Tell your own.”
A teacher notes that a student looks uncharacteristically pale and avoids eye contact with her classmates. When asked privately if she’s OK, the girl bursts into tears, sharing a weekend-long saga of harsh criticism delivered via emails, chats and texts.