As a kid growing up, there were few things I loved more than Iowa Public Television cartoons. From Redwall to Zoboomafoo and Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, IPTV had it all. My favorite show on IPTV was a show based on a series of children’s books created by Marc Brown called Arthur. In this show, our protagonist, Arthur the Aardvark experienced life as a 3rd grader and all the troubles that go along with it. Surrounded by an incredibly memorable group of friends, Arthur learned important life lessons in the span of about 11 minutes.
Now as I look back on the show as an example of diversity, I struggle to come up with a show that even comes close to the amount of diversity showcased in Arthur. Every single character has one or more unique aspects about them that sets them apart from those around them. The following is a list of some of the particularly diverse characters in Arthur:
- Buster the Rabbit: Buster is Arthur’s best friend. He’s sometimes portrayed as the “odd one” as he obsesses over aliens and uniquely shaped foods. He lives in a small apartment complex, denoting that his family is not very wealthy. Perhaps most unique about Buster is that his parents are divorced and he lives with his mom.
- Francine the Monkey: Francine is an especially unique character because, while she may be a girl, her talents are showcased in activities boys are typically good at. All of the sports the children play as a team include both boys and girls, and Francine is shown always dominating in these sports. Additionally, Francine is Jewish and occasionally finds herself in situations where she has to act differently from her friends because of her faith, specifically when there was an episode on Yom Kippur.
- Binky the Bulldog: Binky is portrayed as the “tough guy” in the show, often depicted bullying or forcefully getting his way. However, it is revealed that Binky was held back in school and feels the need to make up for his scholastic incompetence by showing off his physical domination. In fact, Binky is almost virtuosic on the clarinet and actually does have some bright moments. Additionally, Binky goes through a multi-episode story arc in which his family goes through the adoption process to adopt a baby from China.
Marc Brown and the writers of Arthur have created an environment that overflows with diversity. Every type of family is showcased and different races are always present. I believe that one of the purposes of the show is to demonstrate to children that diverse people live and work together every day and that while our diversity makes us different from one another, it doesn’t mean we can’t also love one another.
For my last post, I want to speak more about diversity, particularly in the classroom. Where I student taught this past semester, I encountered a lot more diversity in human beings than I had ever before. I wasn’t just racial diversity only. It was socio-economic, gender, religious, ideals, and moral diversity as well. This I encountered all in a 5-12 band program. We are stuck in a society that deems one standardized test determines the success of a child for the rest of their lives. This should be changed.
We have diverse classrooms and we need diverse instruction. Standardized tests need to be changed to be available in the language of the speaker. We do include standardized tests in the languages that are recognized by the United States, however, there are some languages that are left unrealized and neglect a portion of the American population every year. This is African American Vernacular English (AAVE). It is something that has been talked about in education classes. A test was given to a child who only knew AAVE instead of standard English. This child, when asking this question, “What do you use when you get out of the shower?,” did not know the answer because it was asked in standard English. His mother knew he knew the answer. The test proctor asked the mother to ask him in a what that he would recognize, and she said, “Whaddoya grab when you get outta the tub?” The child responded, “towel” which was the correct answer. (NOTE: Spelling is in phonetic reference to AAVE language.)
AAVE has become a popular enough language that it should be fused into the standardized test language list. If it isn’t, we are not providing an equal opportunity to each child taking standardizes tests such as the ACT. I am not saying we need to change what students are taught in school, particularly in their Language Arts and English classes. We do not do that for those who speak Spanish or Native American or other languages. However, it is required that a test such as the ACT should be available in the taker’s native language because it is a true test of their learning. AAVE tests should be available to those whose home language is AAVE.
With the ever-increasing diversity in school systems, testing strategies and language barriers should be available and updated as well. In order to provide equal educational opportunities to all, diversity stemming outward from the classroom is necessary.
In this post, I want to write about something a little bit more specific to my major. As a music education major, there are many issues in education that I need to grapple with. One of which is the achievement gap between white students and students of color. When discussing the achievement gap between students of color and white students, there are a variety of issues that will be brought up. The initial response when asked what is causing the achievement gap is often socioeconomic status. On average, people of color are in a lower socioeconomic tier compared to their white counterparts. Students that come from a poor home often have more difficulty in school. Transitively, many students of color will struggle in school as a result. Though this may be the predominant factor in the achievement gap, it does not stop there. Stanford University examined the achievement gap between white students and students of color who came from similar economic backgrounds. Even when in these similar backgrounds, the study found that the achievement gap still existed. This is due to the institutionalized segregation in schools. Though legal segregation has been done away with for decades, there are still mental and physical dividers between students. For example, black students are more isolated in schools than ever before. These predominantly black schools see lower funding and, often consequently, lower test scores. These two factors feed into each other, resulting in a downward spiral in student achievement. At the federal and state levels, not enough is being done to assure that these schools receive proper funding and good, qualified teachers. Teachers also need to make a conscious effort to provide all student with an equitable educational experience. As a music educator, I will make an effort to include all students and provide them with the tools they need to achieve. There is a place for everyone in choir, regardless of their ability, their background, or the color of their skin. There is a distinct need for the representation of all people in every field, music is no exception. I will strive for representation of various ethnicities in repertoire whether it be music of a certain culture or composers of color. It is also important that students of color, and all other students, see people of color striving in the musical field. Providing student with these experiences will help make a step in making education a more inclusive environment. Diversity makes our classrooms better, filled with understanding and acceptance. This inclusion is something all educators must strive for.
In my high school there was not a lot of racial diversity among students, the majority being Caucasian and the rest African Americans, but there was diversity in the education. The administrators and principal were very prejudice with education and the students. They believed that the Caucasian students would do better in their classes than the African American students, so they tweaked the rules of education for the African American students. They came up with different class lesson plans for the African American students, which were easier than the lesson plans for the Caucasian students. They also provided the African American students with a classroom of their own where they got help from teachers who were not associated with the Caucasian classes or students. There was also a separate school where more troubled African American students could attend. Then, there was the grading system. My high school was very big on graduation numbers, so they made graduating as easy as possible. They looked at statistics about graduating and changed the guidelines for graduating, which made the grading system easier to match the education the African American students were receiving. It was a four point based system. It was impossible for someone to get a zero, because of the way it was structured, so the lowest score was one and the highest was four. Although, this grading scale made it easier for all students to graduate, it made it harder for them to get fours. The fourth point was defined as going above and beyond the teachers teaching and lesson plans. It was almost impossible for a student to get a four because the school and teachers expected them to do extra research for the topics and subjects we were going over in class. In the end, my high school got the best score in the state or possibly country for graduating students even though they went about it in very, very wrong ways.
*Side note: There were some African American students in the higher level classes and some Caucasians in the lower level classes, so it wasn’t considered to be racist to the community. It was mainly their views on statistics that made them think this way, which is stupid, not their own beliefs. They were too focused on how our high school was rated to actually see what they were doing. I hope it has changed for the better since I left.
As an elementary education major, diversity is something I think about a lot. I am working towards an endorsement in instructional strategy meaning that I may be working with children in a special education classroom. Students’ disabilities can range from a mild learning disability to physical handicaps that will affect their lives forever. Most of my students will be considered diverse to some extent when compared to their peers. It is important for me as a future educator to know how to make modifications for these students and view the world from their standpoint.
Modifications may include a variety of different learning techniques as well as things like classroom arrangement and providing supplies for students who may not be able to afford them. Diversity in the classroom can be seen in many different forms. Racial diversity, gender, socioeconomic status, and sexuality are a few examples that may impact the way a child is viewed among their peers. I have had the opportunity to observe in a few different field experience placements that broadened my views on diversity.
My first field experience placement took place in a small town rural high school. A majority of these students were white but what separated them was the amount of income their parents had. There was clear distinction between the “poor” kids and the “rich” kids. This was very interesting to me for a couple of reasons: 1. I went to a high school with a large minority population and 2. I never realized family income could play such a role in the way a child is viewed by peers. This experience helped me realize that diversity issues are not always racial and/or sexually driven.
We spend a lot of time talking about how to deal with diversity issues in my education classes. I think education on diversity is something that can be applied to all careers.You know the saying, “Knowledge is power”? If we start by spreading awareness and learning about the issues other’s are facing we may be able to reflect on our own actions and learn to treat everyone without bias. It is important that we teach our students to be accepting of others’ differences and refrain from judgement. In today’s society, we are much more open to the idea of equal rights than past generations. In order to ensure a safe, secure future for the generations to come we must start by influencing our youth in a positive manner. I believe it is important to teach children to recognize and accept the things that make us unique. The world would be way too boring if everyone was the same.
Today educators are faced with more challenges in the classroom than before. There are now more students with disabilities in some form or another being mainstreamed than ever before. These students abilities can vary significantly from having a mild form of autism that is nearly undetected unless you already know about. There are also children on the other side of the disability spectrum with a disability that leaves them in a wheelchair and nonverbal. Although these students may be different that doesn’t make these students any less important than the typical students we see in classrooms. If anything these students and their different backgrounds are what makes education so great. They bring their experiences to the class and allow other students who may never have seen a wheelchair before to experience what it is like for their friends. They also are then able to realize how lucky they are to be able to do these things. Having students in the room also allows them to learn from their peers. Studies have shown that students who are in the main classroom learn more from their peers.
However, teachers have to make modifications for these students. This means that teachers have to not only write lessons for the student who is ‘average’. They also have to write lessons for the more advanced students and the students who are struggling. This can mean that the lesson extends from having a list of vocabulary words to having a student read the story and choose their own vocabulary words to even letting them create a project that will get them thinking critically about the topic. The lessons could also be something that extends from the basic list of vocabulary to only choosing specific words that are necessary for the learning, or having a matching list with the words. This isn’t to make their work easier, but give them a task that will allow them to get the same education that their peers are getting in the way that they need. When people think of diversity they typically are only thinking about things that they can see. However, there are all kinds of diversity that people cant see. The classroom is just one way that we can see diversity. Although it might not be right on the surface, if you talk to a teacher they will be able to tell you all kinds of ways that they see diversity in their class.
As an elementary education major, diversity is something that will affect my life in different ways. Not only am I to embrace diversity in my own life, but I am to help students embrace their own depictions of diversity. Being in IS 201 has taught me that diversity can be found wherever we look. While watching the episodes and trying to find pieces of diversity, I have realized that examples can be as small or as big as we make them.
Integrating diversity into classroom lessons will give students choices and allow them to feel more in charge of their role as students. Along with teaching cultural and racial backgrounds, students also need to realize that their is differences among everyone. This is especially important in the middle school age. Since my field placement in a middle school classroom, I have realized that finding your interests and expressing yourself can be difficult. Often times students do not accept diversity, and teachers are not putting focus on acceptance and self expression.
Teaching students the importance of diversity will not only help them grow, but while continuing their education and getting into the workplace, they will be more knowledgeable. Having a good sense of the diversity within you and around you enhances individuals ability to better themselves. Teaching students that success starts with appreciating diversity will help them succeed on teams and gain a basic knowledge of the world around them.
Being a well rounded teacher is a huge responsibility, especially when taking on roles of mentors and role models. Students education and appreciation of diversity starts with their observations of the ones around them. As teachers, we have to be good at expressing and appreciating diversity so that our students find value in it as well. Both IS 101 and 201 have allowed me to view diversity from different standpoints and recognize it in different environments. This will help me on my road to becoming a teacher and a better person. Diversity is a topic that has always interested me, so I am eager to take on the role of modeling it. Diversity is more than just race and ethnic background; although important, students need to see and understand that diversity is everywhere.
Hearing the my friends’ stories about their educational experiences never ceases to amaze me in the levels of diversity that they experienced. Even those who came from similar areas of the country may have had vastly different experiences, but the common factor that seems to be evident in each of their stories is how inclusive or exclusive their school community was.
For some of my friends, high school was an overall good and eyeopening experience. Some traveled overseas with their music groups or leadership clubs, some had the opportunity to work in soup kitchens or clean up rough neighborhoods and talk to the individuals who lived there. Some had the opportunity to take advanced classes and college credit classes that enlightened them on what they could possibly do with the rest of their lives. Some were part of sports teams that made it to state championships and some won state titles in other competition based activities, along the way meeting and competing against people unlike themselves and forming friendships that would last much longer than the end of their seasons. I am fortunate enough to say that I was one of these individuals, and while I would not like to go back to high school by any means, it was an experience that changed my life for the better. Without the opportunities I was privileged enough to have, I would not be who I am today.
However, some of my other friends did not share the same outlook after their previous educational experiences. Some went to schools where signs of individuality were discouraged and diversity itself was a foreign concept. Everyone had their place in the social circle and no one dared try to change it. Individuals were stereotyped by who they were or what they did or where they came from. For some, the ironic song from High School Musical “Stick to the Status Quo” was less irony and more reality; you don’t associate with those outside of your class or your circle, and if you do, you are seen as a social pariah.
In order to broaden our horizons and experience life to its fullest, I believe we need to put ourselves in situations that allow us to experience life differently than what we are used to. We must get past what we see as social norms and reach out to those who may be different than us. Without this kind of development in our experiences, we lack a vital educational experience: we never learn what life is like for people not like ourselves.