Diversity is a topic that America has struggled with since its creation. We claim to be a melting pot of cultures, yet the coming together of multiple cultures or beliefs still stands a hard line. As citizens, we must take a look at our own values and ideals when it comes to the issues of diversity. We must ask ourselves, what diversity even means? Is it the differentiation of different races in an area, or does it have more to do with religion? Maybe instead it is the socioeconomic differences where we find diversity separating people. Regardless of the criteria, diversity is the different characteristics that make someone or something different or unique from another.
Diversity is something that everyone must deal with and eventually accept, because in certain areas of the United States diversity rules. The Western coast of the U.S. is seeing what is called the “minority majority”. This means that there is no single race or ethnicity that holds the majority of the population. While this might not be a shocking statement if you were talking about a smaller scale, however it isn’t. Instead we are looking at an entire region of the country. This should give people an idea of the massive numbers of different ethnic groups mixing throughout the population. Over the past few decades, we have seen the largest influx of immigration ever. With people coming from all across the globe, it is safe to say that diversity is going to affect everyone at some point. This is highlighted even more in many of our schools. We are seeing students from every race, religion and family structure that have their own specific needs.
These needs cover a wide array of differences ranging from mastering a new language, moral beliefs, religious practices, to physical and mental disabilities. As a teacher, you may not encounter every single difference; but you will certainly deal with some of them. Even in my limited teaching experience, I have already encountered multiple students with very diverse differences and have had to make modifications accordingly. However, just because your class is diverse it doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to make modifications. Having diversity in the classroom is a good thing, because it teaches students to be open minded and not make judgments of others based on stereotypes. Creating an environment that is positive and open allows students to focus on the content rather than each other’s differences.
Allowing students to think for themselves and create their own choices is something that I foster with all of my students. I try to teach them not only about physical education but about being strong independent citizens. I want them to learn to look through stereotypes and prejudices that others around them may have created. Often I speak to my classes about the important character virtues that they need to learn and live by. I not only teach my students about them, but I try to be a living example of them, not only in school, but outside in my community as well.
Living amongst a diverse population of students and people is only a portion of how we are affected by diversity. As educators we must also be diverse, but not in who we are, instead by what we do. We need to be diverse the ways and methods that we teach our students. It is known that not all students learn the same way or through the same pathways, so we must diversify how we present the content to them. It is also true that not all students enjoy the same activities; if they did there wouldn’t be so many sports, clubs and groups. Artistic expression is similar in many ways as athletic performance. This is because when people are performing a skill that they are passionate about it is irrelevant whether it is a sport skill, or a show of their voice or dance talents.
As Physical Education teachers, we can diversify our classrooms even more by breaking away from the traditional sports and activities we have played for decades. With new innovations in exercise video gaming we are able to grab the interests of students who may not have been as eager to participate in PE. Things like iDance and DDR allow students who may enjoy dancing and music to have something that not only peaks their interest, but also gives them an excellent workout as well. I look forward to working in a diverse culture, and teaching in a diverse way because I feel that the amount of second hand learning that can take place would be irreplaceable.