This post is a part of the conversation around the ASCD Forum “Learning for All = Teaching for All.” To learn more about the forum, go to www.ascd.org/ascdforum.
By Misty LaCour
Leveraging diversity in schools is about honoring, celebrating, and respecting our differences across cultures. Teachers must engage in culturally responsive teaching in order to leverage diversity within schools. In order to do this, we must have open conversations about diversity, both with other educators and with our students (Cruz, 2015). “When we learn more about who we are—and who students are—culturally, we’ll become more conscious of how we influence students” (Ginsberg, 2015).
Ginsberg (2015) shares five specific strategies that teachers can implement in their classrooms to become culturally responsive educators:
- Include everyone’s perspective
- Incorporate students’ lives and interests
- Allow students to respond in different ways that recognize cultural values
- Resist an overemphasis on the importance of punctuality
- Include multicultural perspectives in classroom discipline models
To obtain additional perspective on this topic, I interviewed Julia Nyberg, professor and chair of the School of Education Diversity Committee at Kaplan University. Nyberg shares the following insight into how educators can leverage diversity within schools.
One of the most interesting things in regards to this conversation is the paradox between student demographic population and teacher demographic population. Most teachers are white. Most grew up and attended English-speaking middle-class schools themselves. Because of that, I think it’s a critical conversation. Talking about leveraging diversity in our schools, we have to take into account that paradox. You have to acknowledge this paradox. That being said, when you see inequity in diverse school settings, it’s never intentional—teachers may not even be aware of it. We go into this profession because we love kids. We never intentionally want to discriminate. Teachers often have their own cultural connections and their own narrative around their identity that will inform [their]. We have to take action that doesn’t just mean culturally relevant and responsive to the student but also to the families and the communities. The community has to be honored and valued.
We have a history of inequity. Instead of looking back and placing blame on teachers or school districts, we have to be proactive by recognizing gaps we still have in schools and school districts. We have to be courageous enough to have conversations about these inequities. We have to address [them] immediately so that we don’t continue to repeat the same cycle by realizing some groups are not performing as well as others. There’s a difference between overt and covert actions. We have to make sure things are addressed within explicit action.
When we’re working in diverse school settings and educating students [who are] different [from] our own cultural competence and identity, we have to really believe in our students and their intellectual competencies regardless of what background they come from. We have to build a culture of trust. We have to create a sense of belonging. With those three pieces, we have the ability to transform instructional practice.
Want to join the 2016 ASCD Forum discussion? Here’s how:
- The ASCD Forum group on the ASCD EDge® social networking site is the main discussion platform. Educators can contribute blog posts about culturally responsive learning environments, pose questions to one another, or offer insight on message boards.
- On Twitter, educators can use #ASCDForum to share perspectives and resources.
- An in-person session of the ASCD Forum will take place at the 2016 ASCD Annual Conference and Exhibit Show on Monday, April 4, from 8:00 to 9:30 a.m.
Cruz, B. C. (2015). The problem we still live with. Educational Leadership, 72(6), 16–20.
Ginsberg, M.B. (2015). Making diverse classrooms safer for learning. Educational Leadership, 72(6). Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/mar15/vol72/num06/Making-Diverse-Classrooms-Safer-for-Learning.aspx
Misty LaCour is a professor at Kaplan University.