Embracing diversity within our classrooms and communities

In the arena of international teaching, diversity in the classroom is a non-issue.  We come to expect that TCKs can speak multiple languages, have lived in multiple countries, and may have parents from different countries, and maybe even siblings adopted from foreign lands.  In contrast, on the local level in the United States, in small towns across the country, diversity in the classroom is still a touchy subject.

Communities face pressing issues.  Should we utilize bilingual instruction?  Should we provide for differentiated instruction?  What does acceptance, respect and tolerance of different ethnicities and cultures look like in APPLICATION, and not just in theory?  Can teachers do more than just "tolerate" the differences between individual students, and instead EMBRACE the colorful environment, and encourage empathy, compassion and even love?

After attending the Montclair State University Summer Conference on Monday, June 27th, I am even more excited for my new opportunity in Shanghai.  I look forward to making use of diversity as a resource and not a detriment in my classroom.  I look forward to providing differentiated instruction, and providing an opportunity for student success regardless of perceived limitations.

After spending time in Europe, I notice that here in America, we stress the individual over the community.  Many people are quick to think of the effects of things like bilingualism on their own life, rather than how it will benefit the community at large, (in the case of one teacher at the conference complaining she wouldn't be able to go into a shop if the signs, products and people were of Korean influence, instead of reflecting on how beneficial it would be for the community of Flushing, Queens, which is made up of Korean immigrants).  Do we bleed less red, white and blue if we let other colors join our countries?  Can national pride exist in light of language differences or socio-economic immobility?

People in power in our government are normally white, native-English speakers.  We need more immigrants and non-native English speakers to represent the interests of those who are without a voice.  We need to lessen the effect of those who are over-represented and fight to rebalance the disproportionate amount of wealth in the community.

In order to best serve our students, teachers must embrace problem-solving diversity.  We must instruct our classes using the collective intelligence and experience of every student in the room.  Our communities must work together to maintain a balance of power, which is true democracy in a global, interconnected economy.

Keynote speaker Dr. Naiditch on changing the dynamic of diversity in classrooms and society at large:

Pictures from Montclair State University Summer Conference 2011
"Teach for the World: Teaching our 21st century Students"

I won a prize in the participant raffle! I never win anything! :)

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