Notes on Diversity and Inclusion
By: Jennifer Nelson
All classrooms consist of some amount of diversity- even if the environment seems to be homogenous. I tend to look at humans as individuals, and not as default members of societally organized groups. Therefore, there will always be diversity in terms of personalities, interests, opinions, and skills.
I think it’s a disservice to humanity to limit discussions on diversity in terms of appearances, income, place of origin, and abilities. I also believe that when we recognize the inherent nature of individuality, it changes the discussion to focus more on what we have in common as opposed to what we don’t.
The concept of everyone being different and having unique experiences should be more of a “duh” than something that’s seen as a novel concept that requires endless studies. In my opinion, having a basic level of respect and empathy for fellow human beings should be so inherent in the fiber of society that this discussion shouldn’t be necessary.
As for inclusivity, I am more focused on harmony. Learning environments need to be harmonious for both the students and the teacher to thrive. I am a proponent of parents having choices for how their children are educated as opposed to assuming that a particular school system is supposed to work for everyone.
Some students would be best served to be in a school or learning environment that has a particular focus. For example, if one is scientifically inclined; it would serve the student best to go to a STEM based school as opposed to trying to shove them into situation that doesn’t bring out their best. Likewise, a musically or artistically gifted child would be best served having the option to enroll in a learning environment that caters to that.
I agree that schools should have “open and honest discussion about difference, and an institutional respect for people of all backgrounds and abilities” (Together we learn better: Inclusive schools benefit all children, 2015, para 5). Yet, I am a proponent of personalized education as opposed to standardized education.
In fact, my career is based on teaching students from various countries virtually. Sometimes in group classes the students are culturally homogenous, and sometimes they aren’t. For example, I once had a class where half of the students were from China, the other half from Brazil, and then there was one student who was from UAE. The students enjoyed getting to know one another.
Sometimes I have a class with students who are on the autism spectrum and students who are not. Yet the harmony works because that is the tone I set.
Overall, I have unintentionally developed a niche for working with students who don’t fit into traditional classrooms for some reason or other. Yet whether or not the classes I teach are “diverse and inclusive” (according to the meanings often assigned to these terms) is irrelevant to me. The foundation of being kind, respectful, and supportive to everyone is what matters. In my classroom, what is important is that every student feels valued, appreciated, and capable of doing their best.
Together we learn better: Inclusive schools benefit all children. (2015, June 10). Inclusive Schools Network. https://inclusiveschools.org/together-we-learn-better-inclusive-schools-benefit-all-children/