As an educator, you know that your students are the beating heart of the classroom. Promoting the personal success of each of those students necessitates an understanding of equity – the integration of policies and behaviors that uplift marginalized populations. Regardless of the setting in which you teach, valuing equity and diversity will enrich the learning experience for everyone.
Every Student Is Different
Each one of your students has a unique story to tell. Most likely, they will hold a range of experiences related to socioeconomic class, race and ethnicity, and other cultural elements like religion.
One way to comprehend this variability amongst your students is through the lens of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). SEL describes the skill sets, such as self-awareness and self-control, that are required to engage in social situations. Based on a student’s particular background, they will have differing access to SEL information and integration.
There are many relevant barriers to Social and Emotional Learning, both at home and at school. Research suggests that the top five obstacles are poverty, implicit bias held by educators and administrators, harsh disciplinary procedures, educator burnout, and a lack of trauma-informed practices. Paying attention to any one of these realities will open your eyes to the differences among your students.
Diversity Is Precious
If you’ve ever witnessed it firsthand, you will probably agree that a diverse student body brings incredible intricacy to the learning environment.
When you fill a room with people who carry rich histories from all over the world, you suddenly bring extraordinary nuance to the material. The discussions will glow with rigorous debate and daring insights. There are countless individual talents that can be nurtured in a diverse classroom! As a teacher, you are sure to learn new things by working in this kind of atmosphere.
Even a unique classroom of first graders is invaluable. Young students who learn empathy, kindness, and cooperation with people who are different from them demonstrate greater adaptability and integrity as adults.
Equity Is Supportive of Diversity
The details of a student’s life outside the classroom will inevitably impact their participation and their outlook on the content presented. Keeping this in mind can give you the sensitivity needed to address any learning challenges or interpersonal conflicts.
Consult with your educational team about any pre-existing policies related to equity and inclusion. They may have resources available for improving your classroom pedagogy. Meanwhile, groups like Western Psychological Services provide digital toolkits for educators working with students who require additional cognitive and sensory assistance.
If you are struggling to find support, simply start with your own implicit bias training and work your way up from there. Unpacking how your social position impacts your teaching can positively transform the impact you have on your students.
Giving each student an equal opportunity to thrive means we must invest in a social-emotional praxis that restores the harms caused by poverty, abuse, racism, and discrimination. Valuing diversity in education requires that we concentrate on equity. In turn, we have the priceless opportunity to foster more harmony and collaboration in our society, which makes everyone’s quality of life better.