In to say that it had even been directed

In
recent years, statistics show that the student population in the United States
continues to diversify steadily (NCES, 2017). According to the National Center
for Education Statistics, “In fall 2014, the percentage of students enrolled in
public elementary and secondary schools who were White was less than 50 percent
(49.5 percent) for the first time and represents a decrease from 58 percent in
fall 2004. In contrast, the percentage who were Hispanic increased from 19 to
25 percent during the same period.” (NCES, 2017). Projected estimates for 2026
show that these trends will continue (NCES, 2017). For this reason it is important
for schools, educators, and learning communities, to not merely accept
diversity, but embrace and celebrate it. Learning communities are people within
the community, with an interest in education, who collaborate to better ensure
that students receive the best education possible (DuFour, 2004). As the people
who make up these community’s change, so must the educational practices to serve
them. In her article, “Teaching to and Through Cultural Diversity”, Geneva Gay
states, “A very different pedagogical paradigm is needed to improve the
performance of underachieving students from various ethnic groups—one that
teaches to and through their personal and cultural strengths, their
intellectual capabilities, and their prior accomplishments. Culturally
responsive teaching is this kind of paradigm.” (Gay, 2013).

While
observing a 12th grade social studies classroom, one incident highlighted
why it is important for learning communities to advocate for culturally diverse
learning.  The class was doing a writing
activity in which they had to identify one problem in American society today
that really bothers them, and justify their response. One
student raised their hand and said, that what bothers them about society today
is that people are still racist, and that he even sees and hears students being
racist at the school. He went on to say that it had even been directed to him
or his friends. He continued by saying that he doesn’t think that most of the
people are truly racist, but they just don’t understand how some of the things
that they say can make people feel very bad. The teacher went on to explain
that the behavior he had described is unacceptable, and if he felt that he need
report it, or wanted someone to talk to about it, there are always people in
the school to support him.

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 This is an interesting incident that really
showcases a lot of the current issues of racial tension that have come up in
the last year, with the election of President Trump. What many studies,
surveys, and reports have shown is that there has been an increase on incidents
of racism toward minority students (SPLC, 2016). According to a national survey
conducted by the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center), “Ninety percent of
educators report that school climate has been negatively affected, and most of
them believe it will have a long-lasting impact. A full 80 percent describe
heightened anxiety and concern on the part of students worried about the impact
of the election on themselves and their families.” (SPLC, 2016). In a borough
that had one of the highest voter turnouts in the city, and the only borough
that was 57% for President Trump (Queens being second at 22%), it is not
unusual to think that Staten Island (where the incident was recorded) is one of
the places that might be experiencing these increased incidents of racism
(Waterhouse, 2016). Regardless of your political affiliation, it is important
as educators to treat these situations with the care and respect that every
student deserves. Shockingly the survey also found that 1 in 4 reported
incidents were committed by a teacher or staff (SPLC, 2016). Educators are
obligated to be knowledgeable about important issues that are going on in our
nation’s schools or affecting our students, and despite our personal beliefs,
help and support our students equally through learning communities that celebrate
diversity.

            Increased diversity broadens the scope of learning, creating
opportunities for new learning experiences. In chapter 2 of the book, “Educating
Everyone’s Children”, Marietta Saravia-Shore states, “The broad range of
experiences and perspectives brought to school by culturally, linguistically,
and ethnically diverse students offer a powerful resource for everyone to learn
more—in different ways, in new environments, and with different types of
people.” (Saravia-Shore, 2008). During an observation of a 7th grade
English class, one recorded incident stood out as a good example of teaching,
as previously quoted by Geneva Gay, “to and through” their diverse backgrounds (Gay,
2013). This was a very interesting interaction because it shows how in a diverse
student body, like that of New York City, the material that teachers provide
must be equally diverse, as well as current, to pique the interest of today’s
students, while stimulating interesting, meaningful, and insightful
conversation.

During
this incident the class was discussing the female characters in, A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park.
The book takes place in Sudan, a predominantly Muslim country, and the
discussion revolved around how their religion shaped their lives and the story.
One female student who is Egyptian and Muslim, raised her hand to recall a time
when she visited Egypt with her parents. She explained that she was born in
America and never wore a Hijab, but before her trip her parents had to explain
to her how Muslim law works in other countries. She also expressed her
knowledge of current events by saying that she knows that women still can’t
drive in some countries. Other students also included other current women’s
rights issues like forced marriages in other countries, or the wage differences
in the United States. Another thing to note about this incident is the
surprising amount of maturity and sensitivity on the topic of Islam, and women’s
rights that these middle school students showed. This age group has had so much
constant exposure, as well as quick access, to issues of race, religion,
women’s rights, and many other current cultural debates that it has made
students more culturally sensitive and equip to listen to, recognize and
discuss these important issues.

The
teacher in this case did a great job by prompting this discussion. In an article
by Mussarat Khan and Kathryn Ecklund, they state, “After
September 11, 2001, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported a 1,700
percent increase of hate crimes against Muslim Americans between 2000 to 2001
(Anderson, 2002).” (Khan, Ecklund, 2012). In 2017, seventeen years later,
a poll done by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding showed that, “More
than two in five (42%) Muslims with children in K–12 school report bullying of
their children because of their faith, compared with 23% of Jews, 20% of
Protestants, and 6% of Catholics.” (ISPU, 2017). These number can only be
reduced when students learn to understand, respect and value the cultural
experiences and differences between them. Teachers must foster an environment that
breeds tolerance, while challenging students to discuss these pertinent issues respectfully.
The teacher in this incident used a story that was relevant to current issues
that students face every day. The book the teacher chose is a great way to have
students experience a different culture and learn from other students who can
relate to the issues discussed. By creating a more diverse learning experience,
you reach more students and provide them with more opportunities to learn. In a
report titled, “How Racially Diverse Schools and Classrooms Can
Benefit All Students”, the authors state, “researchers have documented that students’
exposure to other students who are different from themselves and the novel
ideas and challenges that such exposure brings leads to improved cognitive
skills, including critical thinking and problem solving.” (Wells,
Fox, Cordova-Cobo, 2016).

In
conclusion, as the student population of the United States continues to
diversify, educator must learn to be active members of their learning
communities, and understand the people and the students that create them. Years
of research has proven that diversity makes us smarter and stronger as a
society. “The fact is that if you want to build teams or organizations capable
of innovating, you need diversity. Diversity enhances creativity. It encourages
the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision
making and problem solving.”, says writer for Scientific American, Katherine W.
Phillips (Phillips, 2014). The incidents that where
observed and described in this report showed two things. That minority
communities still face prejudices today, but that learning communities are
combating the problem by celebrating diversity as something that brings us together
and makes us stronger. “Recent developments suggest we are at a
critical moment in history—at a juncture between a future of more racial unrest
and a future of racial healing when our society can become less divided and
more equal. (Wells, Fox, Cordova-Cobo, 2016). As the
shapers of the future citizens and leaders of this country, Educator, now more
that ever need to enforce in students the importance of being part of, and
proud of a cultural diverse learning community.

References

DuFour, R. (2004,
May). What Is a Professional Learning Community? Retrieved December 08, 2017,
from
http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/may04/vol61/num08/What-Is-a-Professional-Learning-Community%C2%A2.aspx

Gay, G. (2013).
Teaching to and Through Cultural Diversity. Curriculum Inquiry,43(1),
48-70. doi:10.1111/curi.12002

Institute for
SocialPolicy and Understanding. (2017). American Muslim Poll 2017: Muslims at
The Crossroads. Retrieved December 8, 2017, from
https://www.bing.com/cr?IG=42861281BF8F43369B1073458A1B1937&CID=349240ACACF4615E29374BFEAD5B60BF&rd=1&h=JHnWI5YIvoePCZLhKcfZzc-GgniLRLF4qQPp_GUqIkc&v=1&r=https%3a%2f%2fwww.ispu.org%2fwp-content%2fuploads%2f2017%2f06%2fAMP-2017-Key-Findings.pdf&p=DevEx,5062.1

Khan, M., &
Ecklund, K. (2012, January 01). Attitudes Toward Muslim Americans Post-9/11.
Retrieved December 08, 2017, from https://quod.lib.umich.edu/j/jmmh/10381607.0007.101/–attitudes-toward-muslim-americans-post-911?rgn=main%3Bview

National Center for
Education Statistics. (2017, May). Racial/Ethnic Enrollment in Public Schools.
Retrieved December 08, 2017, from
https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cge.asp

Phillips, K. W. (2014,
October 01). How Diversity Makes Us Smarter. Retrieved December 08, 2017, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-diversity-makes-us-smarter/

Saravia-Shore, M.
(2008). Chapter 2. Diverse Teaching Strategies for Diverse Learners. In Educating
Everybody’s Children: Diverse Teaching Strategies for Diverse Learners, Revised
and Expanded 2nd Edition Edited by Robert W. Cole. 1703 North Beauregard
Street, Alexandria, VA 22311-1714: Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development.

SPLC: Southern Poverty
Law Center. (2016, April 13). The Trump Effect: The Impact of the Presidential
Campaign on Our Nation’s Schools. Retrieved November 28, 2017, from
https://www.splcenter.org/20160413/trump-effect-impact-presidential-campaign-our-nations-schools#students

Wells, Fox,
Cordova-Cobo. (2014, October 1). How Racially Diverse Schools and Classrooms
Can Benefit All Students. Retrieved December 08, 2017, from https://tcf.org/content/report/how-racially-diverse-schools-and-classrooms-can-benefit-all-students/

W., & Waterhouse,
M. (2016, November 09). How each NYC borough voted (hint: Clinton didn’t win
them all). Retrieved November 28, 2017, from http://abc7ny.com/politics/how-each-nyc-borough-voted-(hint-clinton-didnt-win-them-all)/15983

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