Unity Over Uniformity: Cultivating Diversity

Tell Me What You Can Hear

This post was inspired by the sermon my preacher, Jeff Wofford, gave this morning, which had me thinking of it’s applications beyond the church.  Jeff’s point was that we tend to want our church to be filled with members who are like ourselves, and that should not be the goal. Diversity reaches more people. When I refer to diversity in this post, I am not limiting it to mean racial or cultural diversity. Nope. I’m also referring to personalities, interests, and abilities of my students within my classes and within our schools. Our members are those who enroll in our schools and take our classes. Are we celebrating their differences in order to cultivate unity? Uniformity is not unity. We have to do better for teachers and students.

And Then Tell Me What You See

So is this easier said than done? Is there a one size fits all method for celebrating diversity? Do we know what that means? Are we striving for uniformity and calling it unity? Yes, no, maybe, and not sure, but sometimes, I think we are.

Everybody Has a Different Way

There’s a lot of talk about compliance in education right now, and uniformity can look an awful lot like compliance. On my softball team, the girls all wear the same uniform and abide by the same rules, so in that we do achieve uniformity. Unity is a whole other…ballgame. When my team achieves unity, we win games. What does that look like? Each player does her job in the field and at the plate, they trust each other to take care of their position, make plays, and listen to the coaches.  That’s unity.  If a player doesn’t cover her position properly, pay attention, make plays, then our uniformity is irrelevant. We don’t need nine pitchers on the field, or nine short stops. We need nine players with different skill sets, and talents working together toward one goal. As a team, the goal is to win, and without unity, we lose.

To View The World

In our schools and classrooms, we don’t win unless our students do. Period. What that looks like is a blend of Maslow and Bloom. It can also look or be complicated, so let’s take a dive into my largest class and see how it looks there. From that, we can extrapolate how that can look in our schools and in your own classrooms.

I Would Like You To Know

The Cape Wearer

I had a student put on a cape recently as I handed out our word root tests. When I asked about it, he replied, “This is my test cape. When I wear it, I’m guaranteed to get at least an 80% on the test.” Fair enough. I let him wear it, and he made an 83% on the test. As a high school student, did he really believe in the cape power? No, but did it harm anything for him to wear it? No. Do we celebrate students with quirky idiosyncrasies or do we crucify them for not being normal?

When You See The Simple Things

The Loner

We all have a student or two who do not like collaborating with classmates or sitting with them. They prefer to sit quietly in places not crowded by other students or as isolated as the seating arrangement allows. I have at least one per class. Do I force them to be uncomfortable at times? Yes, but I push all students out of comfort zones. Since switching to flexible seating, my loners have more comfortable options to isolate themselves when possible and move about when collaboration is called for. Do we celebrate their individualism or do we crucify them for not being normal

To Appreciate This Life

I could go on. We have the athletes, musicians, geeks, nerds (yes, there’s a difference), the poor, the rich, the gamers, the non-gamers, the social students, the transfer students, the home town students, the farmers, the town kids, and more. You get the drift. There’s plenty of diversity to help bring variety into our classrooms and schools. Sameness does not bring about unity, and it doesn’t inspire must innovation or greatness either. If everyone brings the same thing to the table, we won’t have much of a meal, but it’s comfortable.

It’s Not Too Late to Learn

Diversity in all of us brings a plethora of experiences, ideas, passions, and talents. If we harness that by celebrating and cultivating those differences, instead of stifling them, what kind of unity could we achieve? Could our students solve real issues locally? Globally? Bare minimum, could we satisfy enough of Maslow’s hierarchy to make the higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy achievable? The norm? Can we abolish the limits we automatically place on certain students and all students to let them loose to see how far they can go? Let’s try it.

Partial lyrics by Iron Maiden’s Different World.


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