Students and Teachers from Diverse Populations

It’s much easier to go into the classroom with a set plan, have common standards for everybody, and expect students to sink or swim. While this is efficient for the teacher, this approach is likely to leave students feeling like they are drones in a classroom. This approach is especially problematic when it comes to students in diverse populations. Though a common goal and standard is valuable, students with disabilities and students who know English as a second language may need to take a different approach to reaching that goal. We may even need to adjust goals so that they are easier for the students to reach. Herein lies another catch-22. When we adjust goals for students who have trouble reaching them, does that make things unfair for our “normal” students? We are bound to encounter students who try to manipulate us into thinking so. How should we address these manipulations, and when do we start asking for evidence of extenuating circumstance? What do we qualify as an extenuating circumstance?

Lockhart and Roberge do a good job of helping us to anticipate the types of outliers we can expect in the classroom. But they fail to directly address the issue of potential manipulation. Though we are bound to have one or two students over the years who succeed in pulling the wool over our eyes, I think that much of this manipulation can be avoided by maintaining confidentiality between teacher and student. This eliminates a part of the problem, but there’s still the issue of student-to-student relationship. We want students to help one another because conversation with peers is a huge part of the learning process, but peer-to-peer learning puts the confidentiality of adaptations at risk. Lockhart and Roberge suggest community building, and I think this solves the most of the problem. While working in communities may cause adaptations to surface, it also promotes bonds between students and hopefully creates a better understanding of the necessity of certain adaptations.

Gibson brings up another important point, that it may not be the students who are “strange,” but the teacher may also be strange. As instructors, we must always consider the ways in which our identities interact with the demographic of the school in which we are working. I must admit that the demographic of the University of Idaho makes me a little nervous about working as an aide next year. I anticipate that there will be a large number of students from small, rural, conservative farming communities. At this point, I’m mostly comfortable interacting with this population in a diplomatic manner, I’ve had these interactions go awry a few times, and I want to avoid that as much as possible in the classroom.