Recognizing diversity is such a significant part of working in the classroom and being a successful teacher. Establishing classroom norms and letting students know that you appreciate their uniqueness is important to do right away in a classroom, so the expectations and standards are set right from the beginning. In the Ladson-Billings article titled "Seeing Culture, Seeing Color," it discusses the importance of noticing each and every student's traits which include race, ethnicity, traditions, and overall preferences. Having a teacher recognize something unique about students can make all the difference in their lives, and show them that the teacher is not only concerned about their abilities in the classroom, but also is interested in learning more about them as people instead of just students. One way that teachers can learn about the diversity in the classroom is to do icebreaker activities the first week in order to gain a better idea of who the students are as people and what they enjoy. This could be more informal in the beginning, and then these activities could start talking about what the students find as their strengths and weaknesses in school, and discuss the things that they want to improve upon. Creating an environment where students can feel comfortable sharing their experiences and their diverse perspectives is crucial in learning and teaching.
Another important point that the Ladson-Billings article discussed was the importance of having a reciprocal role as a teacher. As much as the teacher is going to be relaying information and knowledge, they can learn just as much from the students. It is important that students know that they are able to share their ideas openly in the classroom and questions certain topics using logical thinking. Too often I have seen students not share their ideas, for fear of being wrong or told not to share out, so it is crucial that we as future teachers create a comfortable learning environment where students can open up to the teacher and their peers.
I wanted to add one final thought about an activity that I did in seventh grade that is not necessarily tied to diversity, but goes along with noticing individuals and the importance of recognizing and celebrating each person. We were working on our autobiographies in seventh grade, and one of the activities we had to do was create a collage of thoughts from our classmates. Our teacher passed out blank pieces of paper that had each person's name on, and we all had to write one nice thing about each person. It could be anything positive that we thought about the person, whether that be academically, in sports, or about the person's personality, but we had to do it for each person in the class. After we turned them in and our teacher sorted them, she handed them back to us and we had to create some kind of collage with the compliments to put in our autobiography. Getting these papers back and reading the comments that my classmates had said about me was amazing. It was such a good feeling to hear all these things about me. Most of them were things I would have never thought my classmates even noticed about me, so it just goes to show the power that each individual has in creating a classroom unit. I want to incorporate this into my future classroom, as well as many other activities to notice and celebrate diversity and uniqueness among the students.