Tag Archives: diversity

Not Convinced Diversity Is That Important?

I was walking on the grounds of one of our elementary schools this week, came across this line of trees and was in utter awe.img_2673

It struck me like a ton of bricks…diversity is beautiful.  We are intrinsically drawn to variation.  We may think  that sameness is great, until we are presented with the possibilities of diversity and can appreciate the depth of our desire for diversity.

Not convinced? Look at how we crave diversity in our lives.

Any one of these flavors would be delicious to us, but not if we were constantly limited to the same thing. If all we had to eat in our diet were Reese’s cups we might actually (gulp) develop an aversion to them!

Would you have been happy as a kid using the same crayon or paint color-even if it was your favorite? I mean, how many of us begged our parents for the most giganticus box of Crayolas? We tried hard to convince them that diversity was important to us.

If you have ever tried to arrange a bouquet or plan a garden, you can truly appreciate how diversity adds beauty and harmony to the design element.  They bloom at different times, they give shape and texture to the ensemble, they complement each other in ways that bring out the best in each flower.

 

We desire a diversity in the selection of tools we accumulate. We realize there is no one superior tool, they all bring a unique utility and application to meet our diverse needs.Sure we love hammers, but if that’s the only tool we have, everything is going to start looking like a nail to us.

 

I live in Maine.  The diversity of seasons offers us a variety of experiences and opportunities that people who live in the Arctic or the Bahamas may never enjoy. Sure, I have my favorites, but I also find deep pleasure in the experience of each.

Scientists and philosophers address the importance of diversity.

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Nature thrives with diversity.

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Our children embrace diversity…

1930574_10209305946025372_3573791951316148095_n.jpguntil they learn otherwise.

We can’t truly teach acceptance and diversity if we don’t honestly believe that it is important for our quality of life, our sense of community, and even for our survival. From a cellular level on up- we depend upon diversity to thrive and survive. It isn’t until we learn from others to disregard or disavow the importance of diversity that it becomes a political or moral issue.  I hope as teachers we can counter the messages (subtle and overt) that paint diversity into a “politically correct” corner. (And lately those messages are ramped up bigly).  Look into the faces of the children in your classroom and picture the world you want them to grow up in.

Be the change!

What’s On My Book Radar?

screen-shot-2016-10-22-at-8-45-58-amAs Brave as You by Jason Reynolds

I love this story on so many levels, but in terms of diversity, it is a perfect book.  Kids often get the message that diversity is a condition to overcome!  When disability, race, gender, or sexual identity is the central “problem” to the story, rather than just “who we are”, it reinforces the otherness that separates us rather than the common experiences that unite us. The windows and mirrors should be a connector, not a barrier. This story does that.

Genie and his brother, Ernie, are sent to their grandparent’s home while their parents take a trip to Jamaica in an attempt to salvage their troubled marriage. Grandpop is blind, but full of surprises that the boys discover as they get to know a man who estranged from his own son (their father). Jason Reynolds knows how to create complex characters that will stay with you, long after the pages close on their story.

Remodeling Libraries with Windows and Mirrors

decor-mirrors-8-rustic-wood-windows-decor-ideasI was at the 2014 NCTE conference when I first heard a panel talk about literature as windows and mirrors. Mirrors are the books that reflect a child’s own life.  The characters look like them and have similar experiences that the child can relate to.  Windows are books that allow a child to see into the world of another and shed light on those experiences.  We need to make sure our libraries have plenty of both.  When I look at my own personal library, I realize it is in desperate need of a make-over!

As teachers we are often the gatekeeper to our students’ reading options.  What they choose to read is often limited by what we have to offer. Sure, some kids come from homes with plenty of books, but many of our students rely on our classrooms or our school libraries for their reading diets. It’s important  that we make sure we are offering a balanced diet! We have to make sure we aren’t simply choosing the books WE like to read, but constantly keep in mind what our students may want to read-or would be helped by reading.

Mirrors

When you look around your classroom you can see the diversity of race, gender, socioeconomic status, disability, culture, etc.  Some classrooms are more diverse than others!  But when you look at your classroom library do you see that diversity reflected? Could every child in your classroom find him or herself mirrored in the  books of your room? Many kids don’t “feel invited to the party” when they don’t see themselves reflected in the literature.  We want to invite them into the world of books, but they need to feel like they belong there.  We need more mirrors!

Windows

Our world is getting flatter (global playing field is being leveled a great deal by technology and connectedness).  Our neighborhoods are changing and schools are becoming more diverse. We want our students to see into the lives of others through the books they read.  We want them to develop empathy, understanding, and compassion that will break down bias and discrimination.   Kids need books with strong characters- with a variety of color, culture, genders, and (dis)abilities. Who could read Brown Girl Dreaming without gaining insight into growing up ‘brown’ in the south?  Who could read Out of My Head or Wonder without crushing any preconceived notions of disabilities? Books allow us to walk in the shoes of others.  We need more windows!

weneeddiversebooks-logoWhy?

In essence, we need diverse books.  There are movements and websites devoted to this movement.  Just search Twitter with  and you’ll find many reasons why our libraries should be more diverse.  Here are 10+ reasons why I would love all classrooms to diversify their libraries. (There are probably as many reasons as there are people!)

DIVERSE BOOKS:

  1. Build empathy.
  2. Expand our worldview.
  3. Give us new ways of thinking about issues.
  4. Invite everyone to “the party”.
  5. Help the marginalized to be seen.
  6. Inspire us to tell our own stories.
  7. Reflect the reality of the world.
  8. Help kids envision who they can aspire to be.
  9. Affirm that we are all important and valued.
  10. Combat ignorance.

BONUS: They add beauty to our lives!!!

So as you organize your libraries this year and consider what new books you would like to add to your collection, you can diversify by looking at the faces of your children. Which books would be MIRRORS and which would be WINDOWS that represent each of those precious souls?

To get you started you can use some of these lists:

What’s on my Book Radar?

Fitting with my theme of diversity, I found two books this summer that deal with welcoming immigrant students into our classrooms. I love them! Our district has had a large influx over the years and I think their presence has enriched our schools immensely. These stories may help foster greater empathy and understanding for just how difficult that transition may be for many of these kids.Name+Jar+CoverThough not new (2003) Yangsook Choi’s book is still very relevant, and beautiful. Unhei has just moved with her family to the U.S. and realizes her name is difficult for others to say (Yoon-Hey). Her classmates create a name jar filled with “American” names for her to choose from.  Unhei thinks a lot about the importance of a name and decides upon the perfect name for herself.

158089612XAnne Sibley O’Brien’s compassionate story follows three immigrant students as they try to assimilate into a new country and new school. Maria is from Guatemala, Jin is from Korea, and Fatima is from Somalia. This book would be an incredible window for elementary students.  Things that we take for granted each day in school, are often challenges for immigrant students.  What a wonderful mirror this book would be for these new students as well!

Happy Reading!