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Educating to All with a Purpose Page 1

Diversity: Educating to All with a Purpose

Lizette Gopar Carreno

University of San Francisco

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I plan on becoming an educator that brings out the best in all of my students by

acknowledging the diversity they bring to the classroom and embracing it. I attended public

schools growing and wish I could say I had a lot of influential teachers or counselors, but I did

not. Most of my teachers taught my classmates and I the same exact way and would send us

home with extra work to practice with our parents if we didnt understand something because

they didnt have time to spend more time on it in class. My teachers didnt realize that some

students might have parents without an education higher than middle or grade school. My

parents were born and raised in a small town in Oaxaca, Mexico. They were pulled out of school

before completing 5th grade to help raise livestock. My parents are incredibly smart and talented

but they werent taught math or English the same way my siblings and I were being taught in

school. Most of the time, I was stuck figuring it out on my own. I complained a lot about the

educational system I grew up with and decided to make a difference for my future students.

Taking this course, along with the research and interviews, has helped me realize that my

teachers were not aware or did not consider using the diversity in the classroom as an advantage.

It could be because they were not taught to think about it or they thought diversity just means

ones ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

Okay, okay. Weve talked about the diverse kids. When are we going to start talking

about the normal kids?. This question was expressed in Part I of the text, Learning to Teach

for Social Justice (p. 9). I dont think normal kid is politically correct because we are all

diverse, there will be those that have alike experiences but even siblings that grow up in the same

household are diverse. When I googled normal, the first result defined it as conforming to a

standard; usual, typical, or expected. Who decides the standards and expectations of the

classroom? Yes, we have the dreadful standardize testing we will need to prepare our students
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for, but my concerns about that will be addressed later. If the educator is who sets the

expectations for the students in the classroom, then shouldnt the educator think about setting

expectations for themselves to create an inclusive and comfortable learning environment for all

of the students, when setting the students expectations? I interviewed Mrs. Gragg and she shared

an example of using the 4321 grading scale to set the expectations for her dance class. Mrs.

Gragg teaches physical education at Lawrence Jones Middle school. On the first day she explains

what she expects from her students. If you mess up you can continue to take a crack at it, but

you can also teach the dance to someone else and you can still earn a 4 (interview February 7,

2017). I agree with Mrs. Graggs philosophy, a student should not be kept from earning a 4 if

they cannot perform without making mistakes because the ultimate goal is to get our students to

understand and apply it. This is why it is important to know our students needs and setting

expectations that apply to all strengths and be flexible when needed.

In her essay included in Learning to Teach for Social Justice, Claudia Angelica Narez

expresses, I believe that students enter the classroom with a great deal of knowledge and

experience; as teachers, we have to build on that knowledge (p.139). I strongly agree with her

because I have been in multiple situations where I felt like sharing my relevant experience with

the class but was shut down because there was no time for that. Not only was I shut down, but

I felt disengaged and bored for being told something I already knew. The last thing I want to do

is bore my students, I want to learn from their experiences especially if they are more experts at

something than myself. Mrs. Gragg gave a great example about engaging her students when she

knew close to nothing about football. She shared with me how she would pass the football with

her husband and did her homework to learn the lingo and plays. Mrs. Gragg realized she had

students in her class that grew up playing football so she asked them to write down some routes
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for her to include in the class. Its about walking with confidence says Mrs. Gragg (interview

February 7, 2017). She felt confident asking her students to help her without fearing that they

might think less of her. I remember taking P.E. with Mrs. Gragg when I was in middle school and

remember how inclusive she made her classes. I always felt comfortable even with the sports I

wasnt good at because she gave me the opportunity to leave an impression when it came to

running track and playing soccer in the class. I would like all of my students to feel the same

comfort and inclusiveness in my classroom. I know that I will also need to feel confident in the

subject matter as well as what I learn about my students so I can engage them based on their


Educating our students on the subject matter that is required by the state should not be

based on the one textbook that is provided. Earlier I mentioned that creating a safe and inclusive

environment in the classroom is critical for our students to feel comfortable sharing their

experiences so we could all learn from them. This is one way of engaging them as well as finding

ways to motivate them to want to come to class and participate. This sounds more interesting

than completing the worksheets provided by the workbook, provided by the textbook, provided

by the school. I could understand why teachers dont feel free to apply this teaching in the

classroom because they may feel chained to the pressure of pouring in all the information needed

to score high on the standardized testing. A test that is not designed to include multiple

intelligences or cultural relevance. But is the ultimate goal to get our students to score high on

the standardized testing? In my research I came across a study that displayed two approaches of

preparing for the standardized testing. Taking Back the Standards: Equity-Minded Teachers

Response to Accountability-Related Instructional Constraints included a teachers approach of

teaching history with a different approach than the worksheets provided. She had her students
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write a biography about any historical figure that had cultural relevance to them. The students

then shared their findings to the class as well as the reason why they chose who they did. The

class was responsible to pay close attention to the presentation because they then had to right a

biography about the historical figure presented by their classmate. Students' survival and their

reality has to be talked about. I can't just say, well I need to cover standard 3.1 today. ... They

can't succeed in the class if they're not comfortable, if they don't trust me, and if I'm not dealing

with what they bring. ... Bringing all that in and making them an expert at something is important

because they know so much, and nobody ever bothers to ask them. (Xitlali). This result

expresses again the importance of learning what our students bring to the classroom. Xitlali

realized there is more to simply teaching the standards and learning what our students are experts

at can be used as an advantage in getting them to learn and understand from each other. My

main goal isnt to get my students to score high on the standardized tests. My main goal as an

educator is to get my students to understand the subject matter so they value their hours spent at

school. I want them to feel they are learning and understanding what they need to for their own


Melanie Parola was another teacher I interviewed and she shared her experience from

working in Special Education. Working with these kids has broaden my understanding on how

critical it is to not ignore the diversity in the classroom Melanie shared (Interview February 2,

2017). Like Melanie, I work with students that have been pulled out from mainstream because

of their moderate to severe aggression and behaviors. My students test me every day and it is my

job to keep them from moving backwards from the progress we have made thus far towards their

individualized goals designed by their IEP. The classroom is designed so all the students have a

ten minute break after a twenty minute work period. Melanie and I agreed that structure and
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consistency is critical because students dont like change but knowing how to be flexible is

important too. Melanie shared a story when she had to move all the students outside for their last

work period of the day because another student was throwing a tantrum in the classroom and

endangering the other students. She stayed inside and handled the student having trouble, while

the assistants and the students worked through the period outside on the bench. Melanie

mentioned that, At the end of the day, all the students needs were met (Interview February 2,

2017). The day didnt go as planned, but it rarely does because as much as we keep learning

from our students, we never know what will set them off. Mrs. Gragg also mentioned that being

flexible is important because of the weather, she mentioned it is important to have a backup

plan for the backup plan (Interview February 8, 2017).

Although I still have a lot to learn about all the methods that my students could benefit

from, I feel like I am on the right track. My goal is to educate to all with a purpose of getting all

of my students to believe they are working towards something. I plan on creating an equitable

curriculum by incorporating the methods I have learned about so far. I am excited to learn from

my colleagues and students so every year is freshly new and unique. I want to create a culturally

enriched classroom because as shared by A journey With a Refugee Family: Raising Culturally

Relevant Teaching Awareness, a culturally relevant classroom "not only makes learning genuine

and authentic, but increases the probability that preservice educators avoid the intellectual,

emotional, psychological, and moral challenges involved in creating consciousness and self-

reflection" I am willing to go the extra mile to ensure my students needs are met and expose

them to as much culture possible. I would like them to grow up knowing they are not wasting

their time and more importantly, have them grow up accepting the diversity that exists around us

for a better tomorrow.

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Darling-Hammond, L., French, J., & Garcia-Lopez, S.P. (Eds.), (2002). Learning to Teach for

Social Justice. New York, NY: Teacher College Columbia University.

Berumen, Freyca Calderon1, and Cecilia1 Silva. "A journey With a Refugee Family: Raising

Culturally Relevant Teaching Awareness." New Directions for Teaching &

Learning 2014. 140 (2014): 51-67. Education Source. Web. 28 Jan. 2017.

Gragg, L. (2017, February 7)

MacCleod, Flora1. "Literacy Identity and Agency: Linking Classrooms to Communitties." Early

Child Development & Care 174.3 (2004): 243-252. Education Source. Web. 23 Jan.


Parola, M. (2017, February 2)

Stillman, Jamy. Taking Back the Standards: Equity-Minded Teachers Response to

Accountability-Related Instructional Constraints. New Educator 5.2 (2009):

135-160. Education Source. Web 18 Jan. 2017.