Celebrating cultural diversity in the classroom

As demographics in America continue to shift and our society grows more and more diverse, our classrooms are becoming increasingly rich with cultural variety and differences.

The need for caring, competent teachers who can acknowledge and celebrate the diversity in our schools is at an all-time high. If you are looking for ways to celebrate cultural diversity in the classroom, here are a few places to start. 

Learn the Language

Allow students who are fluent in other languages to teach their classmates a word or phrase in their native tongue. This can be as simple as “hello” or “goodbye.” Giving the student an opportunity to share their language and communicate in a way that is familiar to them will increase their confidence and create a safe environment for them to embrace their identity while also increasing cultural exposure for the rest of your class. Incorporating these types of language learning opportunities into the everyday rhythm of your classroom shows a commitment to inclusion and cultural celebration.

Celebrate Holidays

Chinese New Year, Day of the Dead, Eid al-Fitr, Canada Day. How often do you see these holidays on your calendar and just breeze by them? If there are students in your classroom who celebrate these holidays in the home, take a moment learn what they’re about in the classroom, too. This can take many different shapes, but the easiest step is to simply acknowledging the holiday at the start of class.

Partner with Parents

Perhaps you have a child in your classroom who is shy or hesitant to open up about his/her cultural background. Looping parents into the conversation can help. 

Showing parents that you are eager to celebrate their child’s cultural background can open up doors for important conversations to take place in the home. Invite parents into the classroom as a special guest to conduct a lesson with their child or have them in as a mystery reader to read a book about their culture.

Diversify your Library

Speaking of books, there are countless out there that are written for the sole purpose of celebrating and bringing awareness to cultural differences. Consider diversifying your classroom library to include books like these. Are you excited about this idea but concerned about the cost of adding to your classroom library? Check out these tips for building your classroom library on a budget.

Build it into the Curriculum

Regardless of how culturally diverse your classroom is, there is a unique opportunity for your students to learn about different cultures through research and reporting. Assign each student a country or geographical area and have them research the culture and present their findings to the class. This can be done through a variety of lenses whether you are in a social studies, economics, or liberal arts unit. 

Creating these opportunities to celebrate and learn about different cultures might prompt tough questions from your students. The more educated you are, the better you will be at facilitating these conversations. Do your research and be sure that you are prepared to engage with your students about these topics. As you find new ways to celebrate cultural diversity in your classroom, your students will benefit from a fresh perspective and a deeper, more compassionate understanding of their peers. 

—Written by Emily Vlietstra, former Marketing Strategist in the Office of Strategy & University Affairs 

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