Celebrating Diversity in Schools without Making Minority Students Feel different

As a foreign language teacher, my goal is to celebrate the wonderful diversity of the world’s cultures every day. There are many subtle ways to make sure your school emphasizes cultural respect and appreciation for diversity.

In publications such as newsletters

Select photos that represent different cultures, races, and sexes. Instead of choosing a photo of a white female teacher, select one of a black male teacher. This alone is a subtle way to promote diversity. Highlight a staff member or student from another country or culture in your newsletter.

On bulletin boards

Choose your images to reflect diversity. Whether it’s photos of students, teachers, or even animals of the world, choose images that reflect our world as a whole not a specific portion of it. I recently did a Valentine’s Day bulletin board for my son’s school. I had a matching quiz with the phrase “I love you” in languages from around the world. I posted great photos of different sorts of love, using images from all over – two sisters in India, a girl and her doll, an Hispanic mom and her son, a family in Sweden, and so on. This is easily done using magazines such as National Geographic.

Through programs

Every school organizes assemblies, events, and other programs that afford the perfect opportunity for the representation of diverse cultures and interests. If you are having a talent show, choose a theme like “A World of Talent” or “It’s a Kids’ World”. Encourage kids with skills in cultural dances or other languages to do their Irish dance, Caribbean steel drum, Hispanic folkloric dance, and so on.

Have a “Dining Around the World” night, where families bring in a traditional dish from their country or representing their heritage – lumpia, Jamaican jerk chicken, spaetzle, empanadas, and so on. Every program is an opportunity for creative diversity. Have a foreign language club, an international dance group, or an international penpal club at your school.

Through holidays

You don’t have to be an international school to celebrate or learn about international holidays. This is knowledge that will serve students well as adults as business leaders, military personnel, and more. Make a big calendar and call it “World Calendar” where you highlight holidays from around the world. Use themes in your classwork that allow students to share information about cultural holidays that are special in their families. When the Christmas Breakfast comes around, choose a theme like “Celebration Around the World” that will allow you to highlight how countries celebrate this season.

There are endless ways to celebrate diversity in our schools. Our kids are remarkably interested in what makes each person special, often more so than their parents. By taking every opportunity to expand beyond the traditional viewpoint, we will be creating open-minded, culturally knowledgeable young people, which can only be a positive thing for our global society.