At the forefront of diversity in the context of education is individuality. One of the biggest takeaways from this course for me was the concept of embracing diversity within education. Whether this is seen within a classroom or the entire school district, teachers can individually make strides to showcase the diversity among their students. This idea sounds like a simple concept that should be done in every classroom throughout the country. However, I have come to realize throughout this course and as a new teacher that this is simply not the case. Teachers and educators need to be mindful of this action in order for it to happen effectively. As a mathematics teacher, I always found that it would be difficult to incorporate diversity and social justice into my lessons. However, this course challenged me to think outside of the box. I have come to realize that with a little creativity it can definitely be done.
Another important takeaway from this course was the idea that teachers should not only act as models, but they should teach diversity and social justice as well. It is important for teachers to act as a role models for their students. However, it is also important that teachers take the time to discuss diversity and social justice. The four social justice standards that we discussed outline the four primary standards educators and students can follow to embrace diversity. Justice, identity, diversity, and action encompass these four social justice standards. In order to teach social justice within our schools, I personally believe that teachers should teach these four standards. They set the foundation for not only teachers, but students as well. At the end of the day it is our job as teachers to teach our students to be kind and respectful individuals to everyone around them.
A stereotype threat involves the inability for an individual within a specific group to perform outside of a societal stereotype they identify with. For example, girls not performing as well in STEM related fields or the idea that all Asians perform well in math class. When students identify with a specific group of people, they tend to become very aware of the associated stereotypes. When individuals are in fact aware of these stereotypes they create an underlying threat amongst themselves. As a society we begin to believe that these stereotypes hold validity.
Steele (2010) describes one example of a stereotype threat in relation to an African American student named Jeff. Jeff was a successful high school student that began his undergraduate coursework at Berkeley. During his calculus course, he noticed two white boys drinking beer during their lecture. He was sure that they would not do well and continued to work hard. However, in the end, he received a C in the course, while the other two boys both received A’s. After speaking with his teaching assistant, he was certain that he simply did not belong at Berkeley. As a result, he transferred to a community college instead. He let this stereotype threat change the course of his life plans. This example is a prime example as to how these very stereotypes can play a tremendous impact on the success and well being of students within academic settings. If a student does not feel safe as though they are in an environment in which they can be successful, they will face many challenges.
There are many ways to reduce stereotype threats within academic settings. The strategies that are used by educators may vary. One important strategy is to ensure that students feel as though they have a sense of belonging and that they feel safe in their classroom. Another strategy involves embracing individuality and diversity. Students should enter their classroom with the understanding that the differences that set us apart should be celebrated. Teachers should also set high standards for their students. When teachers set high standards, their students set higher individual goals.