Lesson Planning and Diversity

When teaching about diversity, the most important thing to remember is to be fair and equal. It is a simple enough rule, but it often is forgotten.

Suppose you want to teach a lesson on different cultures around the world. Which ones would you cover? You could look at England, France, Russia, Germany, India, Japan, and China. Sounds like a decent list, right? It covers a number of large, important countries. It may not talk about all of them, but it is a start.

Try making your own list. Make it as small or as comprehensive as you’d like. I bet you probably left one country out: America. It is dangerous to exempt yourself from a list of cultures around the world. If your class is filled with Americans and they never examine their own culture, then your lesson will turn into a trip to the zoo. They will think of people from foreign cultures as exotic creatures that are completely different from us. They will think of them as one homogeneous group that all have the same beliefs and interests.

Imagine trying to teach a lesson on American culture. No matter what generalization you could make about Americans, you will find somebody who is the exact opposite. This leads to a far more important lesson to teach your students: people can be very different or very similar to each other, whether they are from the same neighborhood or across the world.

Also consider the makeup of your own class. Is everybody from the same place? Is everybody even from the same country? Imagine teaching a lesson on cultures around the world to somebody from Switzerland. That student may already know a great deal about French, German, English, and Russian culture, but still be trying to learn about America. What would you say if that student asked about American culture? If you told the student that the best way to learn American culture is to experience it, you should be saying that about all cultures and ignore teaching about all of them.

When you are planning your lesson, certainly do your research to get accurate facts, but don’t rely solely on them. Maybe one of your students has experience being in another country and has stories to tell. Facts, no matter how interesting they may be, will always be dry. An anecdote, however, is usually quite intriguing.

To make your diversity lesson succeed, make sure it is inclusive. Learning how we are similar connects us; focusing on differences separates us. Use yourself or whatever the local majority is as a mirror to make sure you do not oversimplify stereotype. Get good information on your subject, but find stories that educate while they entertain.