Diversity Matters in Your Classroom

Are your students reflected in their classroom?

Are the materials you choose to use in your classroom represent a diverse range of perspectives?

These are the two questions that I pose to myself when selecting materials to use for my classroom.  It is a question that was ingrained early in my career as an ESL teacher.  It is something that I am learning each year more and more about.

My goal through this blog post is to share my own learning as it relates to my own experiences as a teacher.  I am not perfect…I am not even all the way close to perfect.  What I am is learning to understand my privilege, learning to recognize situations where I can do better to be more culturally responsive and respectful.  In essence, what I have learned is to question, listen and be open to criticism.  In fact, even in this blog post, I may not get things right…I may say the wrong things…or not say them in the right way…All I can say is that I am trying to recognize and learn how to best teach my students to be more respecting of diversity.

So why am I writing this?

As a white middle-class woman, I hold a certain amount of privilege.  I along with others like me make up a majority of teachers.  Many are white females.  However, as teachers, we do not often represent the makeup of our students.  So what business do I have in telling you my tales of what I have learned along the way and where I still need to go.  I don’t know why? But I feel as though it is an important conversation to have.  In fact, the fear of saying the wrong thing and offending someone has often held me back from saying anything.  However, ignoring these ideas, concepts, parts of our history does not help.  I feel as teachers we should be responsible for being open and respectful in how we teach about diversity, race, sexism, and equality.

As a teacher, I cannot leave the responsibility of teaching students about privilege and racism to a teacher of colour and other minority groups. I need to stand as an ally (even if I am only an Ally in training).

This blog post is a long time coming… Sometimes I need to be told something a few times before I get it.  Sometimes I need to see a meme that tells me my silence or lack of effort makes me complicit with the problem.  I don’t know but here it goes anyway.

Understanding Racism

For the longest time, my definition of racism was this: The intentional hatred of one group by another based on the colour of their skin.

One of the things that I am coming to learn is that this limited definition does not really encompass racism as it is experienced by people of colour. This definition ignores things like systematic racism and unintentional racism.

It has been hard for me to accept that racism isn’t always intentional. That accidentally saying something racist and getting called on it doesn’t amount to a full attack on my character. I learn from these opportunities. I listen to what I am being told with an open mind, and an open heart, without getting defensive.

Understanding Privilege

Before I was a teacher I worked with children in the care of the CAS.  We were given training and it was on privilege.  We were presented the flower of privilege and I totally discounted it.  I was told my whole life that if you worked hard you could achieve your goals.  I was told that you could be anything you wanted to be.  The idea that all people didn’t start at the same starting line was not something I was willing to accept.  What I really didn’t understand at the time was that society was set up by rich white men and they set it up to favour themselves.  Like baggage, I was not given as many bags to hold.  This lack of baggage was the reason that I could focus on doing homework and get better grades.  I had the privilege to not have to worry about racial baggage.

Don’t be Colourblind

“I don’t see colour.”

It wasn’t until recently that I realized how important it is to see colour.

Our students are not all the same. They are all different and just like an LD makes someone different, their skin colour does too.

The world sees colour and it is okay to talk about seeing colour.

 

Want to hear more from Patti? Check out her blog or find her on Facebook and Instagram!

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