Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Teaching Diversity

It seems that about this time of year I am always writing a post about diversity but yet here I am again talking about it. Not just because today is the Day of Pink but because I think that this is a very important topic to be discussing. (last years post)

I want to first start out by saying in no means am I trying to offend but to provoke your thinking.  I truly believe that we all have our students learning and feelings at heart. We want what is best, no matter our believes.

As I mentioned above, today is the International Day against Bullying, Discrimination, Homophobia, and Transphobia across the world. Now I know that many of us are very comfortable about teaching or stopping bullying and discrimination; especially when it comes to race. I mean we don't debate slavery anymore do we? We recognize that this is wrong but what about homophobia, and transphobia? Are we just as ready to stand-up for this discrimination?

I already know the answer and for many of us it is no.  I know this because I was there. I wasn't ready to do this. I know that before I learned more about discrimination that was the case. So what changed?

For me it was a realization that what I was doing was wrong. Yes, wrong! If I was prepared to stand up for what was right for other forms of discrimination why not for discrimination against the LGBTQ communities?  I started learning more from a great friend and colleague Alicia Gunn. Along with her wife Shannon (@gunnteach) I learned so much about all social justice ideas and ALL forms of discrimination. I started to change my practise to teach my children how to be the difference in the world. And I slowly learned that its never the kids who have problems with this; its often the adults.

Kids don't see differences. I mean they notice them but they never really care about them. All they really care about is how they are treated. This should be the focus. As one of my students said the other day, "We are all human so let's treat each other that way!"

I totally understand that there is a lot of factors: Religion, personal believes, being uncomfortable, and or not knowing enough. However, as I said before we don't debate slavery so why this? How is this any different then any other form of discrimination? Is it because of religion? Is it because of the backlash?  Discrimination is wrong. Period.  If we as teachers, parents and adults don't start modelling this then we are creating a cycle of hate. We are the ones who are responsible for creating the wars and terrorism that is happening in the world. We are responsible for the violence that we are so ready to shake our heads at. WE, no one else!

WE as teachers need to stand-up for what is right, to be the models that our kids look up to. I don't know about you but I don't want to be the reason for perpetual violence happening in the world. I want to be the difference that makes this stop?

So how do we do this: 

The first step is recognizing that diversity starts with you. We have to put our personal believes and feelings aside and realize that its about love and not hate. It's understanding that I know some parents may be offended because they don't understand but it is my job to educate and make them see this difference. Its not easy but we healthy relationships and if ALL of us are doing it, it makes it a lot easier.

Second step is that this can't just be a one day event. Social diversity needs to be incorporated into our programs whenever we can. To be honest these social justice topics are so easy to incorporate into any subject matter. They also create a real powerful context that our students can latch on to and as we know research shows that when students have powerful contexts to learn with they learn a lot better.

I would love to here from anyone about how they incorporate and celebrate diversity in their classroom. Also if you have any questions please ask away.  Love to hear your comments and ideas.

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