‘Diversity and inclusive practice’ What does this look like for us as Educators? For us as learners?
The high school I am on the BOT for states it is diverse. This is partly because we have a special needs unit on site, an international dept, are the only co-ed college in town, we have the highest percentage of Maori at our school, and are probably the lowest decile ranked college in town. The thought going through my head this week is whether we should celebrate this, as we do, or should we see this as normal.
If we celebrate diversity do we risk as seeing people as members of sub groups, do we define them by their group and act accordingly. Kia ora, you're Maori,you must be good at singing. Talofa Miss Samoa, you should be in our Pacifica club. Malo e lei Mr Tonga, thought about joining our rugby team? Skater boy, you'll be a dropout. I know these are extremes but these things do happen-people have expectations and labels put on them because of the sub groups they belong to in our schools. Conversely you hear, she's done well for someone of her background, as an Asian his maths is poor.
If however we don't celebrate diversity and see everyone through the same eyes do then we to see people as individuals? By not labeling people do we see them as individuals with individual needs. Of course they bring their differences with them, their culture, sexual identity, upbringing, these things make us the individuals we really are. As individuals we are different from others, but we also have lots of similarities regardless of our ethnicity, gender, and the other things that make us different. We all want to learn, we all need social interaction, we all need the basics to enable us to survive. I am predominantly Pakeha of Scottish and English stock. I have enough Maori in me to know where that line comes from and to be proud of that part of me. I am however different from all others I know with the same background. I have not met another me. Take a look at your friends from the same background as you, they are all different, there are similarities but we also have our uniqueness. True diversity is the individual.
If however we don't celebrate diversity and see everyone through the same eyes do then we start to have the same expectations of all. By having the same expectations we then become more inclusive because of individual needs? As educators we know some pupils are better at writing than others so we have different expectations of what they will achieve. We help them reach the next stage for themselves not based on who they are but on their learning needs. I will not have a different expectation for pupils in my class based on there culture or background. I will expect all of my pupils to progress, to be take that next step with me. For some that will be quicker, others will take longer, but as individuals not as members of a group.
I believe schools should mirror the communities that they operate in. For this reason I don't believe in single sex schools. I believe in schools where pupils learn to mix with others from all walks of life, because that is the community I believe in. I love communities that are more diverse because it adds a richer layer to that community. To remain diverse we need to know about and remember our backgrounds, and the things that are important to our cultural heritage. Yes we need to celebrate those things and we need to be members of groups, but we should not be defined by this.
Diversity to the extreme is the individual. Let's make that normal now, see people for who they are as individuals and educate them to achieve their full potential as themselves.
As I said this is what has been going on in my head this week, any comments greatly appreciated.