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Appreciating Culture and Diversity as a Teacher

According to the United States Census Bureau, “The U.S. is projected to become a majority-minority nation for the first time in 2043. While the non-Hispanic white population will remain the largest single group, no group will make up a majority.” More specifically, the total of the Hispanics, blacks (African-American), Asians, American Indians and Alaska Natives, as well as other smaller sub-groups, will grow to comprise approximately 57 percent of the population by 2060.

What does this mean for educators? It means that teachers must be prepared to acknowledge, respect and understand students with substantially different cultural histories and diverse backgrounds.

Culture and Diversity

When we speak of culture, we consider where our students are born, what traditions they hold dear, and their preferences in such things as music, art, food, and clothing, to name a few. We think of culture as stemming from nationalistic patterns and customs of groups of people.

When we think of diversity, however, we consider how our students are different from others, both inside and outside of their cultural groups. Diversity involves individual or family spiritual beliefs, gender, physical and mental abilities and political positions. Within cultural groups we find that people are diverse in many ways, even if they were born and raised with a single cultural norm.

How Can Teachers Show Appreciation for Culture?

Even now most urban classrooms include students from various national backgrounds. Some of these students have been born and raised in the United States and mirror much of the culture and traditions they have experienced here.

But many students immigrate with their families from countries all over the world. They come to the classroom needing more support than that required to overcome language barriers or fit in socially. Teachers must find ways to not only acknowledge but also celebrate their students’ cultural heritage.

One way teachers can honor cultural differences is by letting students from different cultures be the expert. Teaching other students about traditions, explaining the history and geography of countries and regions, and sharing cultural experiences are some ways to let these students know they are valued and welcome.

In addition to educators teaching and respecting students from other cultures, it is important that students in the classroom develop a sense of respect and acceptance of each other. The traditions and heritage students bring with them, whether or not they were born in the United States, contribute to the unique tone and atmosphere of the classroom. Teachers must help all students explore the cultures represented and recognize how cultural differences make the world more interesting, not more divided.

How Can Teachers Show Appreciation for Diversity?

Students may come to school from the same cultural background but with diverse opinions, positions and perspectives in a variety of subjects. In addition, students from different cultural backgrounds can share opinions and perspectives even if their cultures seem to clash. When it comes to diversity, the primary goals of the teacher are to promote both understanding and respect.

Professor and author Marietta Saravia-Shore says, “Rather than constituting a problem for students and educators, the growing diversity in U.S. classrooms necessitates and encourages the development and use of diverse teaching strategies designed to respond to each student as an individual.”

Preparing to Teach With Appreciation for Cultural Differences and Diversity

The all-online Master of Education in Elementary Education program at Mississippi College will prepare you to work with students representing different cultures and with diverse belief systems and abilities. When you graduate with this degree, you will have the skills to “design and implement lesson plans and prepare curricula that respect and reflect diverse cultural experiences, as well as differentiate instruction for different learning needs.” With these skills, you will be able to make a significant difference in the lives of your students as you facilitate their introduction to different cultures and diverse points of view.

Learn more about the MC online M.Ed. in Elementary Education program.


Sources:

U.S. Census Bureau: Projections Show a Slower Growing, Older, More Diverse Nation a Half Century from Now

DifferenceBetween.com: Difference Between Culture and Diversity

HuffPost: Promoting Respect for Cultural Diversity in the Classroom

ASCD: Diverse Teaching Strategies for Diverse Learners

Great Schools: How Important Is Cultural Diversity at Your School


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