Issues in Classroom Diversity

November 17, 2010

Al Boerema introduces the topic:

The theme of this issue of CEJ is diversity. Let’s talk about this from the perspective of whether diversity is a value that Christian schools should seek. What does it mean for a Christian school to be diverse, and what are barriers to creating and maintaining diversity in Christian schools?


November 29, 2010

Rebecca De Smith begins the conversation with some opening thoughts.

Hello all!

God loves diversity. Just look at the creation. From microscopic DNA molecules to the vast universe filled with countless stars and galaxies, our Creator has demonstrated boundless creativity over and over again. Diversity is an undeniable part of our world, and so we shouldn’t be surprised that it is becoming prevalent in our schools. More and more students with diverse backgrounds populate our classrooms. They come with a variety of cultural backgrounds, language proficiencies, academic abilities, and many other diverse characteristics. As Christian teachers, we are called to respond to the needs of these students. Here are two places to begin.

The teacher’s attitude is key in creating a classroom atmosphere of trust and acceptance, where all students are welcomed, supported, and provided with the best opportunities to learn. We only have to look at the Master Teacher to get us on the right track. Jesus Christ embraced the various men, women, and children he encountered, loving them, accepting them, teaching them, and giving them exactly what they needed. We can learn a lot about accepting diversity by adopting the attitude of Jesus and modeling his actions.

Along with an attitude of respect and acceptance, teachers must provide effective instruction so all students can achieve. Adapting curriculum to students with various learning needs, language limitations, and social/emotional deficits takes time, energy, and a lot of creativity. This can be very challenging, and the more diverse your students are, the more challenging it can be! Begin to find ideas for differentiation by taking advantage of the many resources available through books, websites, and experienced teachers in your building. The more ways you learn to adapt your curriculum, the more effectively you’ll meet your students’ needs.

So is diversity in our schools really something we should encourage? Is it worth all the time and effort we must put into it? All we have to do is look around at the delightful world we live in to see that diversity is something God intended for us. We cannot deny it—we must learn to embrace diversity with joy and acceptance in our attitudes and actions as we teach God’s covenant children.


December 9, 2010

Christian Altena adds to the discussion:

A snowy greeting to all from Chicago!

Amen, amen, thrice I say “amen” to the thoughts expressed by Rebecca. Amen to a celebration of the diversity of God’s people. Amen to an awe-filled wonder at the multitudinous examples of his power expressed in creation. Amen to the variety of religious expressions that we increasingly find within our schools. Amen to the differing ways that our students experience and understand the world around them. Amen to their perspectives, for through them our worlds all widen. Amen to the diversity that is unified in Christ.

Having said all this, diversity can be very scary and controversial; and even within the body of Christ it can be confusing and alienating. There are two very troubling and contradictory currents of thought these days which I’ve noticed wreaking havoc in some of my students’ minds: one flowing towards a critique-less, postmodern acceptance of all types of difference, and the other towards a knee-jerk, AM-radio hostility and indifference to the other. Some of my students would prefer not to dwell on the many prescriptive aspects of our faith, and some are quite done with any notions of absolute truth. In the other direction, many students—especially in today’s political climate—find it nearly impossible to understand, or even listen to opposing political or religious viewpoints. I was deeply saddened to notice two years ago that in the halls of my school some students and teachers found it challenging to celebrate, or even talk about the historic election of 2008. Even I didn’t go out of my way to mention that I had attended Obama’s acceptance speech in Grant Park that warm November evening.

I agree with Rebecca that the teacher plays a critical role in helping students to develop a Christlike attitude to the differences around them. Teachers must constantly be on the lookout for opportunities for students to practice a manner of thinking about diversity that seeks truth, promotes justice, doesn’t shrink from taking a principled stand, but above all, exudes the love of Christ.


December 10, 2010

Mary Ashun takes this further:

Chicago … aaahhh … a white Christmas for sure!

I continue to be amazed at a phenomenon that I have observed for the past couple of years. Teachers, professors, school leaders with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working think that on topics of diversity … it is a desirable thing. There’s a huge gap, though, between thinking it and taking active steps to fulfilling that desire. I will share a couple of examples that have given me cause for joy, although they make me realize that we haven’t yet reached the critical mass we need to make this an entrenched part of our schooling systems.
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