By Dr. Skip Greenwood
The concept of diversity is so complex that it’s a challenge to figure out where to even start talking about it. To better understand a concept I always look for key words or phrases in how that concept is defined or talked about.
Webster defines diversity as “the condition of having or being composed of differing elements”: especially “the inclusion of different types of people (such as different races or cultures) in a group or organization”.
A key word for me is “different”. What I have learned is the word “different” is more than seeing the obvious contrasts between individuals or groups such as sex, age, or color of skin. When it comes to diversity the word different is very much about being different from me.
When we think and talk about diversity we need to use ourselves as a reference point and to continually recognize that diversity means other people are “different from me”. When we work to support students with diversity in mind, we need to go beyond simply recognizing obvious differences such as a student looking or acting differently than we do. We need to challenge ourselves to recognize more subtle differences such as:
• A student may have different ways of thinking about things than you do: Just because you think it is right, does that mean a student does? Do you think your priorities about learning and life are the same as the student you are working with?
• A student may have different ways of doing things than you do: We all have our favorite ways of doing things, particularly when it comes organizing and getting work done. Just because your way of doing things seems right, does that mean your way is easy or right for the student?
• A student may perceive or interpret things differently than you do: You may think the upcoming test is not a big deal but does the student share your belief? Whose perception is right?