“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.”
― Maya Angelou
The classroom is a great place to stimulate discussions of various perspectives and help young people to grow up appreciating and normalizing collaboration with those who come from different backgrounds, have different values, and bring diverse perspectives. While some appreciation in diversity will happen organically based on exposure, teachers of students of all ages should still foster discussion and learning on the topic of diversity recognition. What follows are five ways to help your students appreciate and embrace diversity.
- Showcase the Value of Learning About Different Cultures. Make learning about different cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds exciting and fun. No matter the ages of your students or what subject you teach, make an effort to expose your students to the value of different perspectives. If you teach English, assign readings from authors of diverse backgrounds, incorporate sociological considerations in your history classes, and highlight the contributions of scientists and mathematicians from different countries and backgrounds. When students can see the unique contributions of people who differ from them, they may develop a deeper appreciation of diversity.
- Foster a Culture of Open Discussion. Your classroom can be a safe place where everyone’s opinions and experiences matter. Foster a culture of openness and acceptance in your classroom. Encourage students to talk about their backgrounds and culture and show enthusiasm and interest in their contributions. Your students will follow your lead and may develop a natural curiosity and interest in their classmates’ experiences themselves.
- Encourage Students to Embrace Their Culture and Heritage. Appreciation for diversity should include an understanding and appreciation of one’s own culture. Add some assignments to your curriculum that encourage students to research and learn about their heritage. Ask students to write a biography about an ancestor, explore the history of when their family first came to America, or research an element about their culture, such as food, dance, or music.
- Diversify Your Teaching Materials. Look at your textbooks, worksheets, readings, and videos with a keen eye. Make an effort to seek out new instructional materials that offer diverse perspectives and showcase races, genders, religions, and cultures that reflect the diversity.
- Address Issues of Inequality. Teachers can be advocates for their students. Part of creating an open culture and a safe space for students’ needs to involve being a resource for students to share concerns and observations relative to inequality. Ensure your students feel comfortable talking to you about issues of discrimination, whether it be inside or outside the classroom. Escalate issues to your school’s leadership when necessary, and ensure leaders are addressing students’ concerns promptly and fairly.
The topic of diversity is not something that can be addressed in one lecture, exercise, or unit. It must be considered, embraced, and discussed regularly. By normalizing the acceptance of different perspectives, backgrounds, and opinions, we create a generation of leaders who will see one another’s differences as strengths—not as challenges.