Along with teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic, today’s classroom has an important role in teaching children about diversity. As teachers learn in their online masters in educational leadership degree programs, in a classroom setting a child will encounter other children and people from all walks of life. Teaching them to accept and feel accepted no matter who they are is an important task.
Teaching diversity in a classroom starts with creating an atmosphere of acceptance and embraces differences. In their resource and tools, Scholastic has the following tips to create an atmosphere of acceptance in a classroom.
- Develop a cultural sensitivity – even within specific cultures, differences can exist. Recognizing that everyone has different ideas and ways of doing things doesn’t make them wrong. Instead, try to find out why someone does things a certain way.
- Get to know everyone as an individual – learning about each child and family can give you insight into why they may do things differently.
- Learn to appreciate differences – while it may not be the way you would do things, or always have done things does not make it wrong – just different. Rather than try to change the way they are doing things, perhaps try to incorporate their ways into the way things are done.
By setting an example in the classroom yourself, you lead the way to teaching diversity to the class. Children of all ages learn by example just as much as what comes from books or what is said. By portraying the behavior you would like them to show, you set the tone and precedence for the whole class.
Setting a good example is just the first step towards teaching diversity. Taking further steps can help teach children to accept and embrace diversity. The Teachers’ Diversity Coach, Dorit Sasson, recommends the following five activities to help increase acceptance and understanding of diversity.
- Sharing their life story – send each child home with a sheet of questions to answer about themselves, their lives, their family, and what makes them special. When completed, allow each child to share their story with the rest of the class, either from the front, or by going around the class.
- Do research on their nationality – have each child do a project that researches their family nationality or nationalities. Have them look up through resources some of the history of the nation or culture that their family came from. They can discover what foods are popular, what games the children play, what holidays do they celebrate, or important traditions.
- Complete a family tree – building a family tree with the help of their family can help them understand where they came from, what their history is, and other family facts. Have each child bring in photos, or memorabilia from their family. They can share stories and information about people in their family tree, such as languages they spoke, how they lived, or what they did for a living.
- Designate special days or weeks to learning about particular cultures – having Black History Month offers a wonderful chance to share, learn and focus on all of the contributions that African Americans have made here. Create special times for different cultures, such as Mexican Heritage Week. Or around a certain holiday that a culture practices.
- Share family traditions with the class – allowing each student to share special traditions, beliefs, or practices with the class can help them not only feel special and important, but can also help them see the special things about their classmates.
Creating a classroom that embraces diversity and understands that everyone is different can not only improve how well it functions, but also extends to improve the child’s life and the world. By teaching children to accept and appreciate people as they are will help them succeed in our diverse society as they grow up and go out into the world.