Diversity in the Classroom

Diversity in the classroom is a major issue in education today. Although many schools in Canada profess to be multicultural and accepting, this is not always how students and teachers might feel they are viewed. Those from different cultures and different countries face multiple challenges in our education system and society.

In reading the article entitled “Swimming against the mainstream: Examining cultural assumptions in the classroom” by Kristy Garcia, I am quite fascinated in the way she describes the associations that she has about being a Mexican-American student in a Teacher Education program. I had never imagined that someone of Mexican-American descent would have stereotypes associated with themselves for going into a teacher education program. Sitting here in my classroom at McGill I can’t help but notice that there are students from a wide variety of cultures and backgrounds in the same classroom. Do these students all feel the same pressures as described in the articles by Garcia?

In contrast to the article by Garcia in which she described societal pressure and values, Korean student Grace MyHyun Bang writes about the more internal feelings of cultural stereotypes in her article “Watching Words and Managing Multiple Identities”. I was struck by the way she described the letter from her father, written in English, encouraging her to “finish her hard diploma”. In North America there are no doubt cultural stereotypes when it comes to English teachers and it is a huge step for someone of Korean descent to engage in a program to become an English teacher.

I have been very fortunate to spend my education in schools and programs that are multicultural, with students of all races and ethnic backgrounds. I have not had to personally deal with issues that are apparent to students such as Garcia and MyHyun Bang. I am sure that there are many other students in my situation, who do not see cultural stereotypes as apparently. It is important for those who deal with these issues to write about them and equally important for us who do not face stereotypes and racial issues to read about it in order to educate ourselves about the possibility of this occurring in our schools and to those around us. As future educators, we must be sensitive and accepting of issues such as these so that all students may have an equal chance.