William & Mary School of Education Statement on Diversity

Diversity connotes distinctiveness, uniqueness, and interconnection among and between human beings. It denotes racial, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic heritage, national origin, socioeconomic status, age, gender, sexual orientation, philosophical, religious, and spiritual beliefs, as well as physical, social, and intellectual attributes and abilities.

The faculty, staff, and students of the School of Education value inclusiveness and equity of opportunities for diverse learners. We promote attitudes and beliefs that foster faculty members’ and students’ understanding of self and diverse others through curriculum, instruction, research, and focused learning activities. These values also guide our internal governance as well as our partnership with educational institutions and other community agencies. Advocacy for diverse learners informs instructional, clinical, and policy decisions in order to impact our students and the constituents they will serve.

I understand diversity through two distinct lenses, both of which I have spent plenty of time peering through during my student teaching. First, there is the lens of socioeconomic and cultural diversity. Second, there is academic diversity - as there are students with a massive variety of learning styles and educational needs. As I navigated a high school disparate from my own during my student teaching, I discovered that diversity seen through these two different lenses actually produces the same result. I realized, and not for the first time, that the best, most appropriate way to consider diversity is to see each and every student as a unique person. Each student has his or her own needs, regardless of race, creed, or any other category humans place others in. As a student teacher, I met and became friends with more people than possibly ever before in my life, and it was tempting to follow the herd and categorize students into convenient groups. However, I came to realize that the more I got to know my students, the more unique they became. It became impossible to categorize them, impossible to reduce them, impossible to simplify them.

Therefore, in my classroom I wanted to create a student centered environment where students had a great deal of self-directed learning. I found that it was easier for students to differentiate their own learning than it was for me to force some kind of categorical differentiation upon them. So, I planned as many different learning activity types as possible to present students with a wide array of options. As we progressed through my student teaching, students came to like and respect me because I gave them ample freedom within my classroom. When necessary, I collaborated effectively with my friend and special education co-teacher to form creative learning environments for students with legally defined special needs.

Artifacts:

  • When assigning summative assessments, I allowed students with vastly different experiences to showcase their abilities by guiding them through UDL mini-projects such as the one that punctuated this assignment on Ibn Battuta.
  • During my student teaching, I provided for individual differences and built positive rapport among my students by working with students individually, attending their extracurricular activities, and chaperoning their field trips.
  • To create this behavior intervention plan, I worked with my cooperating teacher, my special education co-teacher, and my school nurse.