Just a Little Louisiana Gumbo - Part 2
This is the second blog in a five-week series for the month of March featuring "GUMBO" tips. Here we go with the letter: U
Diversity is the buzzword of every organization today, but understanding it is not. Future teachers need to understand diversity to be successful in today's classroom. How can you do this? Make sure that your field experiences, student teaching experiences, and volunteer experiences place you with students of varied abilities, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. I know, the university places you in your field experiences and student teaching experiences, but you can control your volunteer experiences. If your university has only placed you in urban settings to complete field and student teaching, then you need to see about volunteer opportunities in rural and suburban settings. If you are in an urban setting, but only placed at the top performing magnet schools or in the gifted classes to do student teaching, you need to seek out a more traditional setting. This will help you gather a better understanding of the diverse students you will meet on your teaching journey. There is great instruction going on in all types of schools, so don't limit your experiences.
College of Education programs must be diligent in placing student teachers and field experience students in diverse settings. It shows in the interview. Some programs allow the university/student teaching supervisors to select the schools they are willing to visit in order to observe student teachers. Really, take the time to look at your list of sites and try to expand them to ensure that your graduates are prepared to teach in any setting. It doesn't count if they go to an urban school, but can only student teach the gifted children. This is the time to challenge them and build their teaching skills. So, don't waste these valuable hours on "cookie cutter" settings.
District and school administrators must stop believing that only a certain ethnic group can teach a certain ethnic group. (I'm trying to be politically correct, but let me get real.) Look at your employees and if you are lacking diversity at certain sites, demand it. It doesn't count if the custodian and cafeteria workers are minorities and all the teachers are Caucasian. Nor, does a school that is 99% African American student population need to have all of the teachers be African American to be effective. Seriously, in 2015, we should have more diverse school faculties and it shouldn't take a federal order to make that happen.
Daphne Donaldson, Recruitment Manager
East Baton Rouge Parish School System
Baton Rouge, Louisiana