Of the many contemporary issues that educators must update themselves on, one of the issues that inspire both excitement and worry is cultural diversity.
On the one hand, greater cultural diversity in the classroom is something most educators intuitively welcome. It enriches learning experiences for both students and teachers, and it also levels the playing field for healthy exchanges of ideas and cultural values.
But on the other hand, teachers and other formators may be anxious about their current knowledge of cultures they are not well-versed in and how to manage conversations about culture that is sensitive and empathetic.
As a teacher, guidance counselor, principal, or any other type of professional in education, how can you confront the challenge of managing cultural diversity in the 21st-century classroom? Here are some helpful tips from the Carrie Benedet Team, who advocate for better educational leadership when navigating these issues.
Be Upfront with Yourself about Limited Knowledge and Biases
The first step to take in your journey towards being a more culturally inclusive educator is to acknowledge your current limits.
By virtue of your subject position and upbringing in a particular culture, religion, or social class, there will be a lot you do not know about people who are different from you. It is also important to remember that everyone has grown up with implicit biases that affect their behaviour towards others. Additionally, you may initially be coming into your teaching practice with more understanding of how to engage certain cultural viewpoints better than others.
Even as an educator who holds a position of authority over their students, you don’t know everything about the way the world works and how people different from you live their lives. In truth, that’s perfectly all right—one shouldn’t be expected to be 100 percent knowledgeable.
What’s important is that you match your intentions to be an excellent educator with continuous action to be more culturally inclusive. Forgive yourself for what you don’t know, but start your learning journey as soon as possible.
Revisit Your Materials to Be More Inclusive and Culturally Diverse
Second, it’s advisable to revisit your current educational materials—like your teaching modules or counselling tools—and see where you can bring in more cultural diversity.
There’s a lot of value in re-examining your materials to be more up-to-the-minute and more responsive to this generation’s concerns, including those that have to do with learning in more diverse environments. As far as your pedagogy is concerned, try to leave your comfort zone and do things differently.
You can start by researching educational pedagogies done from the perspective of people of colour. If your teaching practice focuses on a particular subject—such as History, let us say—read up on historical events and traditions other than the ones you commonly teach. If you know the cultural makeup of your classroom, that is, how many of your students come from a particular diasporic community in your country, find ways to include discussions about them in your curriculum.
Get to Know Each of Your Students
Of course, the best way to learn about cultural diversity and highlight it as one of the strengths of the learning environment is to get to know your students.
You can do a lot to increase student feelings of safety, comfort, and confidence in the classroom by asking them thoughtful questions about their cultural upbringing and encouraging them to share things on an even footing. Don’t forget to pay attention to the little things, such as how to pronounce their names correctly.
There are two key roles that you can play as an educator in a culturally diverse classroom: the role of the model citizen and the role of the facilitator. You will be able to fulfill these roles by ensuring that each student feels welcome to speak up and share things about themselves in the classroom and by bolstering an environment that celebrates differences in traditions, values, and beliefs.
Centre your students when it comes to learning about different cultures and make it known that everyone can learn from everyone else equally.
Give Your Students the Chance to Highlight Their Cultural Backgrounds in Their Lessons
Lastly, open up opportunities for students to showcase their backgrounds and present new insights about the lessons for the day and their home cultures. Do encourage students to find connections between your class and what they have learned from their country or culture of origin, and allow them to get creative about sharing that side of themselves.
You will be surprised at how many chances you and your students have to bring culture into the conversation. If you teach language and literature, you can give your students assignments for creative works that draw upon their home cultures for inspiration. For a subject like science you can ask your students how a scientific principle is applied in their cultural context.
Bringing more culture into your curriculum will allow your lessons to take deeper root within your students, thus getting them even more excited to learn from you and each other.
Leading Culturally Diverse Learning Environments: Lessons from Carrie Benedet
Carrie Benedet’s team believes in treating diversity as a core element of leadership in a field like education. If you want to learn how to implement a more inclusive educational pedagogy, visit our website for news on training opportunities for diversity education and disability awareness, and inclusive teaching practices.
Want to learn more about upskilling yourself and become a more well-rounded educator? Start your journey towards becoming an excellent educator, role model, and educational leader, and work with coach Carrie Benedet!
Do you need someone to help you become a more effective leader in a diverse workplace? Then, get in touch with me today.