In intellectual capabilities, and their prior accomplishments. Culturally

Inrecent years, statistics show that the student population in the United Statescontinues to diversify steadily (NCES, 2017). According to the National Centerfor Education Statistics, “In fall 2014, the percentage of students enrolled inpublic elementary and secondary schools who were White was less than 50 percent(49.5 percent) for the first time and represents a decrease from 58 percent infall 2004. In contrast, the percentage who were Hispanic increased from 19 to25 percent during the same period.” (NCES, 2017). Projected estimates for 2026show that these trends will continue (NCES, 2017).

For this reason it is importantfor schools, educators, and learning communities, to not merely acceptdiversity, but embrace and celebrate it. Learning communities are people withinthe community, with an interest in education, who collaborate to better ensurethat students receive the best education possible (DuFour, 2004). As the peoplewho make up these community’s change, so must the educational practices to servethem. In her article, “Teaching to and Through Cultural Diversity”, Geneva Gaystates, “A very different pedagogical paradigm is needed to improve theperformance of underachieving students from various ethnic groups—one thatteaches to and through their personal and cultural strengths, theirintellectual capabilities, and their prior accomplishments. Culturallyresponsive teaching is this kind of paradigm.” (Gay, 2013). Whileobserving a 12th grade social studies classroom, one incident highlightedwhy it is important for learning communities to advocate for culturally diverselearning.

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 The class was doing a writingactivity in which they had to identify one problem in American society todaythat really bothers them, and justify their response. Onestudent raised their hand and said, that what bothers them about society todayis that people are still racist, and that he even sees and hears students beingracist at the school. He went on to say that it had even been directed to himor his friends. He continued by saying that he doesn’t think that most of thepeople are truly racist, but they just don’t understand how some of the thingsthat they say can make people feel very bad. The teacher went on to explainthat the behavior he had described is unacceptable, and if he felt that he needreport it, or wanted someone to talk to about it, there are always people inthe school to support him.

 This is an interesting incident that reallyshowcases a lot of the current issues of racial tension that have come up inthe last year, with the election of President Trump. What many studies,surveys, and reports have shown is that there has been an increase on incidentsof racism toward minority students (SPLC, 2016). According to a national surveyconducted by the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center), “Ninety percent ofeducators report that school climate has been negatively affected, and most ofthem believe it will have a long-lasting impact. A full 80 percent describeheightened anxiety and concern on the part of students worried about the impactof the election on themselves and their families.” (SPLC, 2016). In a boroughthat had one of the highest voter turnouts in the city, and the only boroughthat was 57% for President Trump (Queens being second at 22%), it is notunusual to think that Staten Island (where the incident was recorded) is one ofthe places that might be experiencing these increased incidents of racism(Waterhouse, 2016).

Regardless of your political affiliation, it is importantas educators to treat these situations with the care and respect that everystudent deserves. Shockingly the survey also found that 1 in 4 reportedincidents were committed by a teacher or staff (SPLC, 2016). Educators areobligated to be knowledgeable about important issues that are going on in ournation’s schools or affecting our students, and despite our personal beliefs,help and support our students equally through learning communities that celebratediversity.

            Increased diversity broadens the scope of learning, creatingopportunities for new learning experiences. In chapter 2 of the book, “EducatingEveryone’s Children”, Marietta Saravia-Shore states, “The broad range ofexperiences and perspectives brought to school by culturally, linguistically,and ethnically diverse students offer a powerful resource for everyone to learnmore—in different ways, in new environments, and with different types ofpeople.” (Saravia-Shore, 2008). During an observation of a 7th gradeEnglish class, one recorded incident stood out as a good example of teaching,as previously quoted by Geneva Gay, “to and through” their diverse backgrounds (Gay,2013). This was a very interesting interaction because it shows how in a diversestudent body, like that of New York City, the material that teachers providemust be equally diverse, as well as current, to pique the interest of today’sstudents, while stimulating interesting, meaningful, and insightfulconversation.Duringthis incident the class was discussing the female characters in, A Long Walk to Water, by Linda Sue Park.

The book takes place in Sudan, a predominantly Muslim country, and thediscussion revolved around how their religion shaped their lives and the story.One female student who is Egyptian and Muslim, raised her hand to recall a timewhen she visited Egypt with her parents. She explained that she was born inAmerica and never wore a Hijab, but before her trip her parents had to explainto her how Muslim law works in other countries. She also expressed herknowledge of current events by saying that she knows that women still can’tdrive in some countries.

Other students also included other current women’srights issues like forced marriages in other countries, or the wage differencesin the United States. Another thing to note about this incident is thesurprising amount of maturity and sensitivity on the topic of Islam, and women’srights that these middle school students showed. This age group has had so muchconstant exposure, as well as quick access, to issues of race, religion,women’s rights, and many other current cultural debates that it has madestudents more culturally sensitive and equip to listen to, recognize anddiscuss these important issues. Theteacher in this case did a great job by prompting this discussion.

In an articleby Mussarat Khan and Kathryn Ecklund, they state, “AfterSeptember 11, 2001, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported a 1,700percent increase of hate crimes against Muslim Americans between 2000 to 2001(Anderson, 2002).” (Khan, Ecklund, 2012). In 2017, seventeen years later,a poll done by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding showed that, “Morethan two in five (42%) Muslims with children in K–12 school report bullying oftheir children because of their faith, compared with 23% of Jews, 20% ofProtestants, and 6% of Catholics.” (ISPU, 2017). These number can only bereduced when students learn to understand, respect and value the culturalexperiences and differences between them. Teachers must foster an environment thatbreeds tolerance, while challenging students to discuss these pertinent issues respectfully.

The teacher in this incident used a story that was relevant to current issuesthat students face every day. The book the teacher chose is a great way to havestudents experience a different culture and learn from other students who canrelate to the issues discussed. By creating a more diverse learning experience,you reach more students and provide them with more opportunities to learn. In areport titled, “How Racially Diverse Schools and Classrooms CanBenefit All Students”, the authors state, “researchers have documented that students’exposure to other students who are different from themselves and the novelideas and challenges that such exposure brings leads to improved cognitiveskills, including critical thinking and problem solving.” (Wells,Fox, Cordova-Cobo, 2016).Inconclusion, as the student population of the United States continues todiversify, educator must learn to be active members of their learningcommunities, and understand the people and the students that create them. Yearsof research has proven that diversity makes us smarter and stronger as asociety.

“The fact is that if you want to build teams or organizations capableof innovating, you need diversity. Diversity enhances creativity. It encouragesthe search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decisionmaking and problem solving.”, says writer for Scientific American, Katherine W.Phillips (Phillips, 2014). The incidents that whereobserved and described in this report showed two things. That minoritycommunities still face prejudices today, but that learning communities arecombating the problem by celebrating diversity as something that brings us togetherand makes us stronger.

“Recent developments suggest we are at acritical moment in history—at a juncture between a future of more racial unrestand a future of racial healing when our society can become less divided andmore equal. (Wells, Fox, Cordova-Cobo, 2016). As theshapers of the future citizens and leaders of this country, Educator, now morethat ever need to enforce in students the importance of being part of, andproud of a cultural diverse learning community. ReferencesDuFour, R. (2004,May). What Is a Professional Learning Community? Retrieved December 08, 2017,fromhttp://www.ascd.

org/publications/educational-leadership/may04/vol61/num08/What-Is-a-Professional-Learning-Community%C2%A2.aspxGay, G. (2013).

Teaching to and Through Cultural Diversity. Curriculum Inquiry,43(1),48-70. doi:10.1111/curi.12002Institute forSocialPolicy and Understanding. (2017).

American Muslim Poll 2017: Muslims atThe Crossroads. Retrieved December 8, 2017, from

pdf&p=DevEx,5062.1Khan, M., &Ecklund, K. (2012, January 01). Attitudes Toward Muslim Americans Post-9/11.Retrieved December 08, 2017, from https://quod.lib.umich.

edu/j/jmmh/10381607.0007.101/–attitudes-toward-muslim-americans-post-911?rgn=main%3BviewNational Center forEducation Statistics. (2017, May). Racial/Ethnic Enrollment in Public Schools.Retrieved December 08, 2017, fromhttps://nces., K. W. (2014,October 01). How Diversity Makes Us Smarter.

Retrieved December 08, 2017, from, M.(2008). Chapter 2. Diverse Teaching Strategies for Diverse Learners. In EducatingEverybody’s Children: Diverse Teaching Strategies for Diverse Learners, Revisedand Expanded 2nd Edition Edited by Robert W. Cole.

1703 North BeauregardStreet, Alexandria, VA 22311-1714: Association for Supervision and CurriculumDevelopment. SPLC: Southern PovertyLaw Center. (2016, April 13). The Trump Effect: The Impact of the PresidentialCampaign on Our Nation’s Schools. Retrieved November 28, 2017, fromhttps://www.splcenter.

org/20160413/trump-effect-impact-presidential-campaign-our-nations-schools#studentsWells, Fox,Cordova-Cobo. (2014, October 1). How Racially Diverse Schools and ClassroomsCan Benefit All Students. Retrieved December 08, 2017, from

, & Waterhouse,M. (2016, November 09). How each NYC borough voted (hint: Clinton didn’t winthem all). Retrieved November 28, 2017, from


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