By Carrie O’Donnell, MEd
Online Faculty, College of Education
The phrase “unity in diversity” represents wholeness in difference. Unity in diversity can exist when there is respect and integrity. According to Steven Covey (1991), “Strength lies in differences, not similarities.”
Creating a classroom that is unified and diverse begins with the teacher. A word of advice that my mother has said and still says to me when I voice concern about people or situations comes from Proverbs 4:23.
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
What we let into our hearts, our minds and our soul impacts our own lives, our thoughts and potentially our actions.
Classroom teachers encounter students from different cultural backgrounds, socio-economics, family structures and religions. Due to the diversity that classroom teachers encounter, it is imperative that they are aware of any cultural biases that may exist in their own worldview. These viewpoints or attitudes are often hidden, but perpetuated daily through mass and social media. Cultural, religious and socio-economic stereotypes are present in music and television as well.
In order to create a classroom community that is unified and celebrates diversity, teachers must lead by example. This example is not just what is shown to students, so teachers must be aware of their own biases as they show through in small ways that create a huge impression on students.
Identifying biases or attitudes about culture is an ongoing process and may not be evident in certain circumstances, but it is important that teachers are self-aware and reflective. When biases are present, even if they are never stated, they can be felt and they do impact student/teacher relationships and parent/teacher relationships. This is why it is so important that teachers “take stock” about what they are “letting in” so that they are not easily influenced by biases and stereotypes, as these impact the viewpoints.
As you progress in your teaching career, remain aware and let the words of Proverbs 4:23 guide you in all that you do, because your course impacts the course of your students’ lives as well.
Covery, S. (1991) Principle Centered Leadership. New York: Summit Books.
More about Carrie:
Carrie O’Donnell is an online full-time faculty member at Grand Canyon University. Carrie earned her BA in elementary education and K-12/ESL endorsement in 1996 from Arizona State University. She then earned her MA in bilingual and multicultural education from Northern Arizona University in 2000. She is currently completing her PhD in industrial and organizational psychology at GCU.
Carrie began her teaching career as a second grade teacher in 1996. She has formerly taught first, second, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades. As a K-8 administrator, she was in charge of all new teacher training, staff development and teacher evaluations. Carrie has traveled nationwide and presented on topics including classroom management, differentiated instruction, parental involvement, conflict in the workplace and engaging reluctant learners. She is a passionate lifelong learner and loves working with future and current educators.
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