The Problems, and some solutions, To Teaching Towards Diversity (Part I)

Recently, my colleague was leading a class where they asked preservice social studies teachers how they could shape their practice with regard to diversity. The soon to be teachers gave typical answers, like respecting cultures and working with special education staff. One student, who believed in the benefits of diversity, said it was difficult to prepare curriculum for diverse classrooms as preservice teachers. The student continued and described how as a preservice teacher that he was simply trying to maintain control of the class. This student’s story reminds me of the difficulty of teaching and the job of being an educator, especially when you are new. Learning how to teach often feels like treading water in the middle of the ocean while building a boat with whatever floats by. Preservice teachers are just trying to keep their heads above water while they learn the intricacies of classroom management; unfortunately, preservice teachers view teaching towards diversity as something that will sink them.

My initial reaction to my colleague’s story was the student teacher was right and we are expecting too much from them. Afterall, it’s impossible for a preservice teacher, or even a veteran teacher, to adapt their practice to fit all of the diverse identities that exist in American schools. After sometime a new revelation came to me, new and old teachers view teaching diverse classrooms as changing their curriculum for each identity. Viewing it this way, it seems to be an impossible task that can never be sufficiently completed. Teacher educators must instruct preservice teachers over diversity (Faltis, 562-565), but more specifically, they must demonstrate how proper pedagogical practice will allow students to have voice and choice in the curriculum, thereby making it diverse.

Teaching diversity can seem like an impossible mountain to climb, especially since its not the only summit you have to face. There are methods that can help and I will further explain below.

All levels of education are seeing increased diversity in their student populations.

A major challenge with creating new pedagogical practices and curriculum is the word “diversity” has expanded. Now, the word can symbolize students with low mental functions, learning disabilities, or those who are at a lower reading level, along with the more traditional students from nondominant racial, ethnic, and social backgrounds (Carter, 593). Along with the extension of the term diversity, the demographics of American schools has changed. There are many examples of this shift, but an epitome would be “in 1972, 22% of public school students were students of color. By 2007, students of color made up 43% of the public school population…” (Carter, 593).

The final challenge of creating new teaching methods and materials comes from the modern policy of ensuring all students, regardless of demographic, receives a proper education. In the not so distant past, students who presented extensive challenges to schools and teachers were left to their own devices; many of these young people would simply drop out of school. Therefore, 21st century teachers are expected to teach all students, regardless of their perspectives, upbringing, lack of cultural knowledge, and/or deficient resources.

Although change is slow, it is becoming more unacceptable to abandon children because of their socioeconomic or political situation. All children must be taught well in order for the American democracy to further develop.

Continue to other parts and Resources Cited

To see the other parts of this article series, click on Part II and Part III

 

Faltis, Christian, and Guadalupe Valdès (2016). Preparing Teachers for Teaching in and Advocating for Linguistically Diverse Classrooms: A Vade Mecum for Teacher Educators, 549-592. In D. Gitomer and C. Bell Handbook of Research on Teaching, Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

 

Carter, Prudence L., and Linda Darling-Hammond (2016). Teaching Diverse Learners, 593-637. In D. Gitomer and C. Bell Handbook of Research on Teaching, Fifth Edition. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

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