IS DIVERSITY A STRENGTH? ÞÓRÓLFR BJÖRNSSON, SCIENCE
Teachers play a major role in child development. They serve as leaders, educators and role models. They are given the power to be either a positive and motivating presence on a student, or a negative, discouraging one. Students whose teachers had a positive presence in their education tend to have more confidence and are more willing to take on academic challenges, because they were encouraged to do so by teachers. As a teacher, it is important to be able to connect with as many students as possible to be able to provide them with this empowering presence, and sharing a cultural or racial background with a student increases approachability and enhances student-teacher connections.
Since different students succeed through different teaching methods, it is crucial that schools provide as much of a variety as possible. To be able to achieve a high level of variety, teaching programs at universities should make efforts to diversify their student bodies. Diversity in teaching programs translates to more methods and approaches to teaching, which ultimately benefits the student. In Degrees of Change: UConn Increases Diversity in Teaching Programs, Enright states that “UConn and the Neag School of Education have made a concerted effort to increase their minority student population, with the long-term hope of closing the gap that exists now in classrooms.”
A teacher’s methods of education are an incorporation of cultural background and past educational experiences. Students tend to benefit from the presence of teachers from a similar cultural background, as their presence provides a feeling of understanding and safety. Even students from different backgrounds than their teachers can benefit from new teaching styles and other approaches to learning. According to Dean of the Neag School of Education Gladis Kersaint, “They respond when they are supported by teachers of a like race.”
This is expressed through the results of diverse teaching. “Black students who’d had just one black teacher by third grade were 13 percent more likely to enroll in college – and those who’d had two were 32 percent more likely,” Mike Enright writes in an article on UConn Today.
“Research supports that all students, no matter what race, benefit from having teachers of color,” Kersaint said. The presence of diverse teachers at any school is impactful upon the success of all students because diversity enhances connections between teachers and students. With diverse teachers come diverse, high-achieving and motivated students.
Keren Blaunstein is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.
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