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Teaching for diversity refers to acknowledging and celebrating a range of differences in and out of the classroom. Being an inclusive practitioner who embraces difference allows transformations in the way we think, teach, learn and act. This is vital in ensuring all students feel celebrated in their learning environment. Although we have come a long way in recognising and celebrating diversity, we still have a long way to go. It is not a case of acknowledging that you are already ‘inclusive’, it is about educating yourself on key aspects of your students’ lives and the dynamics of society. This is something that I will continue in my practice as I embark on my journey to becoming an English teacher. I am quite fortunate that in my subject I can use a variety of resources within the classroom that celebrate a vast amount of different people and cultures, however, this is more limited in KS4 due to the GCSE specifications. Understandably there are more limits in other subjects but having more of an awareness of what you could do is vital. So going forward, what can you do to increase your own knowledge and understanding on diversity?
This site is a hub of resources and knowledge on diversity and inclusion. Hannah Wilson has created a space where a variety of practitioners can come together and share thoughts and research. In addition, events and seminars are organised regularly to support teachers and equip them with a breadth of knowledge.
I attended an online conference with Diverse Ed and the range of topics discussed were extremely informative. Hearing from a diverse number of practitioners gave me lots to think about in terms of my own practice. Inspiring teachers to be activists and encouraging a diverse number of people into the profession is a way to make waves in the education community. Jo Brassington, who discussed their own experience in the classroom as a non-binary teacher, claims that ‘to make change we need to be seen in the room’. I absolutely agree with this, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community I have always struggled with being open about my identity with others. Discussions like these have encouraged me to ‘be seen in the room’ and embrace my own differences, which some of my students can relate to. I am no way implying you must ‘come out’ to students if you do not feel comfortable, but having some transparency about your own lived experience can create a safe space for others to.
The whole morning was incredibly thought provoking and gave me a lot to think about in my own practice. Fortunately, there are recordings of the conference on Diverse Ed alongside lots of blog posts which can inform your teaching. (See below in further resources.)
Over the past year I have attended a variety of seminars relating to diversity in education. All of which I have found on Eventbrite. I find this website incredibly useful for a range of different forms of CPD. It is accessible and the majority of seminars are free to access. This is another way to increase your knowledge on a variety of different topics, including diversity within education.
A recent seminar I attended was on ‘Recovering Black Storytelling in Qualitative Research’. This covered how we can encourage our students to use their narrative voice alongside a discussion on Stephanie Toliver’s new book, which is being released. She discussed the literary devices she used in her novel and the origins behind them, which was really interesting. The thought process behind a writer’s writing is always incredibly fascinating! This was a celebration of black culture along with discussions that can translate into the classroom. Although curriculums are becoming more diverse, I have found there is still a lack of celebration when it comes to people of colour; the negative connotations that are presented in literature through the texts we have historically studied are not changing. Why are we continuing to study outdated ideologies? I am not discrediting the fact that it is important to have an understanding of such things, but to prioritise information presented by white cisgendered men, does limit our understanding and knowledge of other cultures.
Overall, seminars are brilliant and can really inform your practice. Eventbrite has such a range from something subject specific or general CPD for teachers. I recommended having a look around the site and searching for seminars that spark your interest.
What can you do in school?
I think a good place to start is speaking to colleagues and gauge an understanding of what your school already does. In my previous school, I knew that there used to be an LGBTQ+ and ally group during lunch times. I then decided to reinvent the club and bring it back. I wanted to create a space where anyone could come and discuss their experiences and learn about the LGBTQ+ community. I was really pleased with the turnout and the maturity all students displayed when discussing their experiences. It was great to hear their ideas and what the school could do to ensure they were being more inclusive.
Speak to your departments and see what you can bring into the curriculum. Again, as an English teacher I am fortunate to be able to bring in a range of different texts that students can learn from; however, tutor time is an excellent way to go into more detail and have discussions with students regarding diversity and what it means to them. Obviously PSHE is an excellent way to integrate these topics but get to know what your students are learning in PSHE and relate that into lessons. In addition, during LGBTQ+ History month and Black History month, there are a range of one off lessons that you can use in school which celebrate and educate those on diversity. Please don’t limit yourself to using these resources during their celebratory months, there are so many amazing things we can learn from a variety of lived experiences.
Here below are a range of resources that I have found really useful in my learning journey:
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Here are some of the things I have thought about when increasing my knowledge on diversity. It is a journey and it is important to ask yourself difficult questions and reflect on what you can do within the classroom. As teachers we can all be activists and create an environment where all of our students feel heard and validated.