Diversity: Are you ever prepared enough?

As educators, we are faced not only to take on the job as generators of motivation and knowledge, but to be mediators in the classroom for cultural and socio-economic differences. It is our responsibility to level the playing field as much as possible to ensure that our students get as much as possible out of their educational experiences. In order to do this, we must recognize these crucial points:
-Background variety and cultural stigmas
– Need for a focal point in school-invested environment for all students to participate in so that they have a common connection/investment
-Communication and parental involvement barriers due to race and SES (socio-economic status)
– Our ability to foster resilience
Preparation for a culturally diverse class community is a foundation for success; however that process is not a perfect science. Even if the class is has a curriculum that makes cultural inclusion the forefront, there is always room for miscommunication and dissonant/contrasting values. In order to (at the very least) prepare for a culturally inclusive and academia-based environment, we need to attempt to focus students on the investment in education and create an intrinsic sense of school pride/participation, along with pulling on our own positive experiences with diversity to demonstrate that variety of culture is a strength, not a hindrance.
Due to history in the US regarding race, immigration and civil rights, a teacher needs to be aware of subcultural influence. As a future PE and Health educator, I need to be aware of the cultural backgrounds of my students in regards to their exposure and practice of certain motor skills, access to resources and materials, and family/peer influence on the importance of physical fitness and activity. A study done by Jarron Saint Onge and Patrick Krueger demonstrates that education and race-ethnicity are important markers for social position in the US that have established relationships with physical activity. Compared to whites and more educated individuals, blacks, Hispanics, and less educated individuals exercise less often (US Dept. of Health and Human services 2000). Educators in certain districts need to understand the impact of socio-economic status and racial influence in order to teach and assist accordingly in their students’ educational well-being in health and wellness. In the video, ‘A Girl Like Me’, the young women and girls speak on the internal struggles of acceptance among the culture that they consider their own. Due to exposure to this, the concept of creating an environment that is culturally accepting to all and education-invested is imperative for students to feel like a full participant in their education. This is where fostering resilience comes into play. Some of the students that we teach will not have control over their levels of support, so it is our responsibility to attempt to instill that intrinsic motivation to do well for the sake of their academic and overall success.

Sources for this blog:

Saint Onge, J. M., & Krueger, P. M. (2011). Education and racial-ethnic differences in types of exercise in the United States. Journal Of Health And Social Behavior, 52(2), 197-211. doi:10.1177/0022146510394862

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