As I have started in a new position this year, I have found myself fielding many questions about my new building and new surroundings. These questions tend to center around a few main ideas and topics. I am often asked: Why did you want to come to this building? What do you like most about the school? The students? The community? And so on…
I feel like my answers keep drifting to the same response. I love the diversity of students I have the opportunity to serve. Ethnically, culturally, socioeconomically, there is not a type of student I do not have the opportunity to support in their educational pursuits. It thrills me to see each individual student grow and progress past even their expectations at times. Even though I am still relatively new to the school, I feel this same sentiment from the students and staff in my building as well. We celebrate all the diversity our school community has to offer…or do we?
While I truly believe we celebrate the diversity of people who call SHS home, sometimes, I wonder in education if we always celebrate the diversity of ideas and thinking to the same level. If we as educators told students that we do not agree with the color of their skin, the language they speak, the amount of money their families make, or their culture, people would be appalled. But, do we treat different ways of thinking, opinions, or ideas from our students with the same justice?
Do we celebrate people whose thoughts, ideas, and opinions differ from ours in our schools in the same way we celebrate our diversity in gender, race, ethnicity, or class?
Are we teaching our students to think differently from us and others around them or are we teaching them to think the same? Do we teach students to push the boundaries and challenge thought or do we teach them to conform? Sadly, I think we all know the answer, and it applies to most, if not all of us, in one way or another.
I will admit, I am probably as guilty of this as anyone. I am very passionate in my beliefs about education and many times I too quickly try to convince others to believe in the same principles. Instead of listening, I talk. Perhaps I am subconsciously thinking that if everyone believes exactly what I believe, they will all do exactly what I would do. While this type of thinking might make things easier for me as a building leader, it also ensures my school will never be any more intelligent than I am.
This is an important lesson to teach our students. Focusing on what makes us the same can bring people together, but focusing on what makes us different unites us- it makes us stronger. Just like every coach knows, every player cannot be good for the same reason. Individual positions can be strong but without diversity in a team, it fails. A basketball team full of point guards, a football team with only wide receivers, or a track team with only throwers will never be success. Becoming better lies in our differences, not our similarities.
So, remember the next time that a student speaks their mind in class, a parent disagrees with how you run your classroom, or a colleague frustrates you because of something they disagree with you on– celebrate diversity! Stop, listen, learn, and become better together! Getting better together is a job that is never complete, but it is always worth the effort.
Keep learning; keep growing; keep sharing!