Updated: Feb 22, 2021
One of the questions I field most often relative to instruction of diverse populations is how to teach _____ students. The _____ represents all unknowns for teachers who recognize how influential their experience as students is relative to the methodologies and expectations they have in their own instruction.
New and preservice teachers are exposed in a less than optimal way, oftentimes, to quirks that have been discovered by other educators in practice. Who giggles when reprimanded, who prefers to look away over direct eye-contact, what students will answer “no,” when a demand is expressed in the format of a question… it’s all too evident why a genuine desire to create a spreadsheet and begin logging idiosyncrasies for specific groups of students is attractive.
September, just after Labor Day - students march into the room and their cum folders plus a steady glance at their faces reminds me to pull out my handy-dandy spreadsheet of how to teach ______ students. I’m all set! Forgive me, but facetiousness is my only vehicle for relaying how impractical this mindset is when dealing with human children. There are more pitfalls than the word count of a readable blog post will allot me, but allow me to enumerate the most egregious ones.
-The culture you think your students are, they are not (race is not wholly indicative of culture, culture is wholly not indicative of language, language is not wholly indicative of belief system etc.)?
-The official cum folder information is incorrect or incomplete?
-Class, socio-economic status, religion etc. confound the traditional expectations of the group you think you understand?
-A life event (birth, death, marriage, moving, trauma etc.) has changed the way your student engages with the world?
-Your preoccupation with accessing their needs, distracts you from co-constructing a new mini-culture that all students, regardless of prior experiences can have ownership of and participate in?
There are so many texts, people and experiences that can inform your instruction and understanding of diverse populations. It is incumbent upon you as an educator to do the work it takes to engage in these opportunities regularly. Still, the most important understanding you need is of students as dynamic and living beings. They are the primary source of information about their needs and assets. Learn them from them, and reject all formulaic approaches. You benefit from a functional classroom as the direct result of your personal investment in time spent with those who should be driving your practice - your students!