Ms. Christie—a history instructor at Chester Himes Middle School—is playing private detective this week. She’s trying to solve the mystery of why her lessons, so effective at her old school, seem to be falling flat with her students at Himes. Ms. Christie puts a lot of effort and energy into her lessons. She really tries to make history come alive by including real stories about real people. At her old middle school, these lessons were well received. Students seemed engaged and interested, even excited, by what they were learning.
But not now. Her students at Himes appear uninterested, even disengaged. Some seem bored, others frustrated. They shift around in their seats or stare down at their books. They never ask the kinds of questions her former students asked. A lesson about the discovery of America—a hit at her old school—fell flat. During a more recent discussion of westward expansion, a few students kept challenging her with questions about American Indians, and things soon got off track. Ms. Christie knows that she is a good teacher, but right now she seems to be failing with these students. And she wants to know why.
Her investigation leads her to other teachers, most of whom encourage patience. She’s new, after all, and getting to know students can take time. One teacher, though—Mr. Chandler—gently suggests that maybe Ms. Christie’s issue is that her lessons haven’t been planned with Himes’ particularly diverse student population in mind.
Ms. Christie politely thanks Mr. Chandler for his advice, but secretly she believes that he is way off base. For one thing, Ms. Christie has always believed that “kids are kids,” and that a good lesson in one school will be a good lesson in any school. For another thing, Ms. Christie thinks of herself as someone who is sensitive to issues of diversity. It’s not as though the fact that Himes Middle is more diverse than her last school has escaped her notice. So what is the solution to her mystery?
Here’s your Challenge:
Is it important to acknowledge students’ diversity in classroom settings?
Why or why not? What should teachers understand in order to address student diversity in their classrooms?