Responding to Student Diversity through Classroom Management
Contemporary educators and learner psychologists have contributed a great deal to the pool of knowledge about the diverse learners that schools nowadays have. Teacher education programs have found the necessity of including management of student diversity in their basic courses for future educators. This has indeed been proven useful and essential as many several countries have adapted laws that favour mainstream education. The No Child Left Behind Act of the United States for instance is a concrete national movement that promotes equality among learners grounded on the theory that all children have the right to access quality education in public schools. The term public schools here is taken to mean education for the people, whether the source is government-run schools or private-owned academic institutions.
This essay brings forth five classroom strategies that teachers may adapt with the intent of managing the diverse learners that classrooms are now composed of.
Culture Sharing and Appreciation
Globalization is not an unknown phenomenon anymore, even in the field of education. Borderless classrooms have been an advocacy of several schools and states to address the reality of global movements of families, and consequently their school-aged children. Thus, it is of no surprise that many, if not all, classrooms these days are sprinkled with students having different cultural backgrounds.
Although having culturally diverse student body is always welcomed in schools, it is a fact that this reality may pose a challenge to teachers who are not yet fully equipped with what is called “cultural competence.” Teachers may encounter the challenge of how to make international students appreciate the local culture and practices, especially when these are integrated in the curriculum and they have little way of avoiding encountering them, much less studying them in depth.
The strategy I believe is helpful in a culturally diverse classroom is to let the foreign students share their own cultural practices in class for the local students to become aware of different lifestyles. Awareness of this diversity can lead all students to appreciation. The other way around must also be done. Foreign students must be helped to appreciate the local culture, not simply because they have no choice but to study it, but because it is an essential part in their learning. One pillar of learning that is identified by the UNESCO is learning to live together. And cultural competence is precisely being able to adapt to different peoples, learn from different cultures, and live in harmony even amidst diversity.
A Great Paradox: We are All the Same yet All Unique
Another source of diversity in the classrooms today is the socioeconomic status of the students. All children have the right to be in schools and undergo national basic education. Hence, the schools’ doors have opened up to families coming from the different strata of society.
Instead of this being looked at as a problem or a hindrance to harmonious learning in the classroom, teachers must use this scenario as a great opportunity for learning. What is beautiful in this kind of opportunity that a teacher has is the fact that it can foster in the students a great capacity for respect and understanding for each member of the class.
As a strategy to maximize rich teaching material, teachers must be able to establish the message of the great paradox. All members of the class are the same, grounded on the basic fact that they are all human beings, yet each one is unique, grounded on the fact that they all come from different families who have different experiences and circumstances. This fact is indeed a great potential for rich learning. It is important therefore that the teacher is able to effectively nurture the sense of mutual understanding among the students by being the first to demonstrate it. The teacher must be sensitive to respond to the needs of each student and be generous in understanding the “lacks” of some. To know when to tighten demands and when to loosen up requirements is the wisdom that teachers must prioritize in attaining.
The Buddy System
Part of the movement of Education for All, inclusive education has also become a well-developed and widely-experienced phenomenon. As having foreign students in a class has become very common, having differently-abled students has also become less surprising. Children with disabilities used to be marginalized by feeling excluded from mainstream education because of the fact that they are physically unable to engage in ways that physical perfect children usually can.
Since the presence of handicapped students is now a reality, teachers must also be prepared to incorporate strategies that would address this in their classroom management. One of the strategies that teachers may employ is the buddy system wherein the students with any form of disability are partnered with normal-abled student. This system fosters a wide range of values that all students may learn from. For one, the buddy system can foster humility and sense of dependency from the disabled students. Doing so is an indirect way of empowering them because the act of asking for help for things that they cannot do on their own may be humbling but the act of being given the help they need is an even greater proof that they matter. On the part of the normal-abled children, directly helping someone in need is also empowering. The partnership can prove the reality that needing help is normal, that their peers who need help are not any different from them, and that despite some physical challenges, a person still has the worth that every human being intrinsically has.
Diversity in the classroom may also be stemming from the reality that some students have dysfunctional neurological make-up through no fault of their own. Though it takes specialized skills to diagnose such causes, a teacher may find himself having to deal with these cases despite the fact that he is not equipped with professional “special education” skills.
A strategy that teachers may adapt to address students who have tendencies towards incapacitating mood swings for example is to make sure that they feel understood, respected, and trusted. Empowerment is a crucial factor in these students because it is the first sense that goes away when one is afflicted with any illness. Teachers therefore have to make students who are inflicted with neurological illnesses believe and feel that their sickness does not make them less of a person. It is important to secure them with the sense of self-esteem, self-value, and self-worth.
Another reality that schools face is the presence of having gifted and talented children in a mainstream class. This may pose a great challenge for the teacher because their being gifted is something that affects their performance in schools, either in a constructive way or in a destructive way. Hence a teacher needs to know how to handle such cases.
The first step to an effective strategy is to know how to detect them. Teachers have to have a special keenness in recognizing special gifts and talents that some children may be endowed with. Once these skills are recognized, the teacher must aim to get to know and understand them thoroughly. He has to be able to tap these talents for them to be further honed and maximized as a learning opportunity. Giving them positive challenges is a strategy that teachers may resort to so as to make the gifted students use their talents in a constructive way.
Teaching is indeed a dynamic profession rooted in the very nature of its place of practice – the classroom. Student diversity is a universal phenomenon that must be looked at in its detailed components and responded to in concrete effective strategies. The teachers’ ability to manage their classrooms effectively is raised to a higher level of encompassing the diverse nature of each set of students. Thus it can be said that a truly effective and efficient teacher is one who is able to draw out the best in each of his students and bring them to the growth they deserve as individual persons and as members of a larger society.
Charles, C.M. (2005). Building classroom discipline (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.
UNESCO (n.d.). Learning to live together. Four Pillars of Education. Retrieved from
UNESCO (2005). Embracing diversity: Toolkit for creating inclusive, learning-friendly
environments. Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0013/001375/137522e.pdf