top of page

 On Diversity in My Classroom



     My experience in education ranges from Pre-K to Non-Traditional students in higher ed. I have spent a significant portion of my career in the k12 environment. I started my career in the NY Metropolitan area in a wealthy district focused on student opportunity. I occasionally pushed into urban or disadvantaged populations through residencies but never really understood how deep the inequalities were until I moved south. The people I work with now are an interesting mix of extremes. I have well-off students, but much of my population grew up impoverished. In my previous experiences, the student population was secular even when the community was not. I currently work with a population steeped in religion, and secular education has an extremely modest voice.

     Students in my classes are encouraged to be involved. Every student has an equal and legitimate voice regardless of skill. It is vital to cultivate the conviction that each voice makes a difference. I challenge my students to speak to and feel proud of their contributions to the community. It is a responsibility to both themselves and society to identify with these connections. Cooperative learning is an integral part of this concept. Students learn that art is one-way voices matter in the democratic process. They also come to understand how important working together is in creating anything. Through this practice, the circle of education continues toward a better world. I hope my students are encouraged to believe they can play an active role in this concept.

     Even in the most homogenous of populations, I try to recognize the diversity within a microcosm and appreciate that there is a voice that the majority has squelched. I cannot assume that silence is acceptance. The artists and research I choose to present to my class represent a global population. My goal is to provide a stepping-off point for which conversations happen. Historiography is far more important than history. I want my students to draw from an equitable library, not just from the loudest voice in the room. If there is a poorly represented group in the resources provided, I will ask them to consider the bias.[1]

    I believe education is a continual process. Therefore, it should allow for freedom of expression and the diligence of discipline. Because of this, it should be an experience of both encouragement and challenge. As a facilitator, I am responsible for encouraging students to reach beyond their comfort zones and fostering a belief in their abilities to complete their goals. I challenge my students to work beyond the middle ground by creating scaffolded assignments focused on whole learning.

     Education is about passing on the knowledge of where we have been and the future visions. Learning requires nurturing and expansion. Expanding on this care is a key component for us to reach our full potential. Differentiated instruction is something that I employ frequently. For this reason, tests are infrequent. Assessing the learning in my classroom focuses on both process and articulation. Students are encouraged to create baselines of their knowledge at the start of instruction. Over the semester, they keep a journal to show their thought processes. At the end of the instruction period, they critically analyze their learning. This student-guided assessment of learning fosters an environment that encourages critical thought. It enables a student to use multiple modalities to reach their own goals. Students willingly articulate what they know and provide ample data to prove it with this approach.

     Education is a social function woven into every thread of our lives. Our responsibility is to take hold of those opportunities afforded to us and use them to preserve culture and contribute to a better world. My students are frequently encouraged to consider the impact their learning can have on their community. They are encouraged to share experiences and speak about their differences. A heritage-based approach affords them an understanding of how diversified the table is. It can create a global closeness. When this proves challenging, there is always food. I often encourage my students to exchange similar recipes to explore their differences. Inviting them to share in a meal does wonder.s

     As an artist-educator, I am responsible for providing my students with the chance to meet these educational goals by supplying a sound foundation. Providing ample opportunities to explore art in a unified manner and encouraging students to use art to explore their questions in other academic disciplines is a building block to this foundation. In addition, investigations that include problem-solving, process documentation, editing, and reflecting will produce learners that have honed their ability to think critically and foster self-­expression to create a stronger bond between art and life.

     Students have the opportunity to experience a critical history and solve the puzzles that life creates. Viewing where we have been can often be as important as moving forward. Art happens for a reason. Students need to be able to make those correlations to generate observations about their work. Museum trips, studio tours, books, images, web searches, and artist visits are viable ways of meeting this goal. In addition, students are encouraged to assess how other artists have handled materials, composition, content, and form to become well-versed in pulling the tools they need for the future from history.

     Students have a unique opportunity to embrace and interact with their community. As a result, they learn to be fluent contributors to their own lives and foster the future. It is a humbling educator to be part of that process.  



[1] I teach a survey of Western Art course that is state mandated. In this course, I make sure my students consider scholarships such as Boaz, Titus Kafar’s Ted Talk entitled “Can Art Amend History”, and the non-profit group Advancing Women Artists' work on Women of the Renaissance. I also discuss the origins of poor Islamic relations. The current population I teach is important to consider here as well. They are predominantly white, living at or below the poverty line, and Evangelical, with many experiencing homeschooling during part of their education portfolio. Many students are also first-generation college enrollees.

bottom of page