Diversity In The Classroom
My name is Jahseen Foster. I am a special educational needs teacher, and I am originally from Jamaica Montego Bay, but I am currently living in the United Kingdom.
In this article I will be outlining the importance of promoting diversity within the classroom from the perspective of a black teacher. This is a topic that I am extremely passionate about, due to migrating to the United Kingdom at a young age and having to experience discrimination and micro aggression at school as a student as well as during my journey of becoming a teacher. I came out of this experience positive and wanting to educate others.
§Generally, diversity can be best described as the similarities and differences amongst human beings. It is primarily about empowering people by respecting and appreciating what makes them similar or different. Diversity presents itself in many ways. Such as different races, cultures, religions, various learning styles, distinctive personalities, various capabilities, disabilities, abilities, socio-economic status, gender and ethnicity.
What does diversity generally look like in the UK classrooms?
From my experiences, both as a student and a teacher, the black and Asian cultures are often represented in school as a tick sheet task. For example, school might celebrate Eid, Diwali and the odd black history lesson in black history month. What about the rest of the year? There is no representation of the black and Asian cultures in the schools? This has a huge and negative impact on our students, who are often classed as minority. This is no one’s fault, but just a lack of knowledge.
Why is this a problem?
It is a problem because children need to have a consistent sense of belonging to their environment, to be able to flourish and become confident and productive members of society. Many educational research have also shown that, in order for all children to have outstanding academic experiences, the teacher has to take the time to understand each child as an individual and use the findings to establish a diverse classroom that promotes each child's uniqueness. This includes their culture, religion, likes, dislikes and up bringing etc.
Furthermore, teachers must remove all stereotypical thinking and practices to embrace diversity to full capacity. Adopting this mind-set is the first step to establishing a diverse classroom. Implementing diversity in the classroom is a huge and complex task; however, it is fundamental. With the help of parents this can be implemented successfully and effectively.
Why is diversity paramount in the classroom?
When I look at my classroom, I see individuals who bless my classroom with a range of unique qualities, personalities, experiences, views, upbringing, likes and dislikes etc. As a teacher it is my duty to embrace all this beautiful distinctiveness that they bring into my classroom. I have to ensure these humans are proud of who they are regardless of their similarities or differences. This ensures that student learning process is maximised to enable them to achieve their full potential. Consequently, it is important for students to feel a sense of belonging and are valued in the classroom. This can be achieved through resources such as PowerPoints, books, toys and practices that reflect this diversity amongst the students. These are simple yet effective ways to establish a sense of belonging, which motivate children to learn. On the other hand, these practices also force teachers to rethink how they perceive the notion of diversity; when children are feeling excluded or not belonging within the classroom; there is a noticeable decrease in those children’s participation, engagement, behaviour and self-esteem. Therefore, creating an inclusive classroom environment is paramount to children’s learning and development.
Tips for Teachers
Written by: Jahseen Hiteena Foster