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Diversity Statement

The students that walk into our classrooms are as unique as their own fingerprints.

While many classrooms and curricula are aimed at the perception that there is an “average

student,” cognitive neuroscience argues that there is no such thing (National Center on Universal

Design for Learning. (2010). Students grow up in different socioeconomic households, with

different cultures, disciplinary backgrounds, races and genders, opinions and perspectives

(Caleb, 2014). Students will receive and process information differently not just because of

development, but also because of their own, exclusive, diverse backgrounds.

My first diversity essay explored how people are essentially the same; we all have daily

struggles, fears, emotions, needs, and this serves to build a compassion and empathy among us.

At that time, however, I had not yet acknowledged the importance of looking at the individual,

and what makes them unique. Colorblindness does not serve to honor the different cultures

among us, and all the wonderful things that diversity can contribute to our lives.

“Simply adding social diversity to a group makes people believe that differences of

perspective might exist among them and that belief makes people change their behavior” says

Caleb (2014). When we only see a few points of view we are unable to open our minds and

really explore a topic; when exposed to new opinions and ideas we can grow as humans in our

understanding of one another. Research has supported the idea that diversity enhances creativity,

leads to better decision-making and problem-solving, increases performance and growth, and

promotes innovation and creativity (Caleb, 2014).

The problem is that the materials teachers are provided do not acknowledge the diversity

among our students; for example, despite the plethora of tribes and lifestyles, most material

written about Native Americans are not tribe-specific (Reese, 1999). This can make students
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who are categorized as non-white students feel exclusion, lack of support from peers and

teachers, lack of access, and results in the fact that ethnic minority students have a lower

completion rate for academic goals than their peers; this is also referred to as the “achievement

gap” (Hongtao Y., Sangha R. R., Mai K.V., Aquino G.T., 2018). Cultural disassociation can

affect everyone; most white students enter into college “without an understanding of their own

racial identity or how they fit into a racial hierarchy in the U.S.” (Scheid & Vasko, 2014).

Creating a multicultural classroom is a way that I can solve some of the achievement gap

problems among my students. By opening up the dialogue about different cultures and traditions

we invite students to open up about their own experiences and cultures. In this unit on the

Iditarod, a uniquely Alaskan experience, the students explore the way Alaskan history and

culture affects us today, and honor the traditional Alaskan ways of living. The unit also provides

differentiation for students who may have different learning needs. The differentiated tasks aim

to achieve the same academic goal, whether it be describing the route the mushers take in an

essay, making a poster, or an online graphic presentation. Not all students are given the various

choices; differentiation works best when the students are strongly guided to tasks that strongly

match their abilities to apply their learning (Hocket, 2015). As teachers we should not adjust

students to the curriculum, but instead adjust it to needs of students (MSDE, 2011). For example,

when making a Mother’s Day card with my second grade students, I downloaded a printable with

fill-in blanks, and while some of my students re-wrote the sentences by hand, a few others were

allowed to fill-in the blanks, and draw accompanying pictures.

As a teacher who wants to build a multicultural classroom I must be aware of the

challenges before me. “Demographic changes have made it increasingly likely that a teacher's

experiences don't mirror those of her students” (Quinton, 2013), and since many teachers, when
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explaining something tend to use examples from their own experiences, they are unable to relate

to the many of their students. My goal in every classroom is to acknowledge the various cultural

backgrounds, honor their beliefs with a non-judgmental, exploratory curricula, and welcome the

diversity of all students into my classroom by bringing them and their experiences into class

discussions.

References

Caleb, P. (2014). How Diversity Works. Scientific American, 311(4), 43-47.

Hocket, J. (2015). How I Learned Differentiation. TeachThought Staff. [PDF Document].

Retrieved 5/26/19 from https://www.teachthought.com/learning/how-i-learned-

differentiation/

Hongtao Y., Sangha R. R., Mai K.V., Aquino G.T. (2018). Supplemental Instruction: Helping

Disadvantaged Students Reduce Performance Gap. Journal of Developmental

Education, 41(2), 18–25. Retrieved from

http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.uas.alaska.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eft&AN

=130539926&login.asp&site=ehost-live

MSDE Center for Technology in Education, Division of Special Education / Early Intervention

Services (2011). Universal Design for Learning (UDL) [online video] Retrieved 5/26/19

from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aaSZqgr2eUM

National Center on Universal Design for Learning. (2010). UDL: Principles and Practice.

[online video]. UDL at a Glance. Retrieved 5/25/19 from

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGLTJw0GSxk

Quinton, S. (2013). Good Teachers Embrace Their Students’ Cultural Backgrounds. The
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Atlantic. Resourced at https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/11/why-good-

teachers-embrace-culture/430356/

Reese, Debbie. “Authenticity and Sensitivity: Goals for writing and reviewing books with Native

American themes.” School Library Journal; Dec, 1999. Resourced at

http://www.slj.com/1999/12/collection-development/authenticity-and-sensitivity-goals-

for-writing-and-reviewing-books-with-native-american-themes/#_

Scheid, A. F., & Vasko, E. T. (2014). Teaching Race: Pedagogical Challenges in Predominantly

White Undergraduate Theology Classrooms. Teaching Theology & Religion, 17(1), 27-

45. doi:10.1111/teth.12157