Years in Education: 11-15
Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math Integration Elementary Teacher
Q: What do you have in common with your students?
A: I teach in a demographically diverse elementary school: linguistically, culturally, and economically. With 15+ different languages spoken in a given classroom and no ethnicity representing more than a third of the population, the students I teach are generally as different from each other as they are from me.
That being said, I did grow up in the district where I teach and we share that experience. Most of my students enjoy learning and school. Our region is a STEM hub so students like technology. Most also love hands-on learning and science. Engineering activities are popular as well.
In addition to increasing access to those STEM interests, I am able to serve as a male role model for the boys (there are very few male elementary teachers). As such, I am able to model equal access for all and showing the assertive boys the value of encouraging less assertive students. Being a very diverse population, we value and celebrate our diversity together.
Q: Does it matter that students and teachers have things in common?
A: Yes. As human beings, when forming relationships we tend to connect where we have things in common and build from there.
I am fortunate that my school is so diverse because we all share that as a sense of community. Yet, I am also aware that it is hard for many of my students to look at me and see themselves because of differences in gender, culture, language, ethnicity, etc.
With this in mind, it is important for educators to seek out as many things that they do have in common with their students as possible, e.g. sports, music, hobbies. Teachers should also take an interest in their students' unique interests and encourage them in these areas as a way to connect.
Still, having students able to see themselves reflected in their role models is important. To this end, I cannot change who I am, but as a teacher I can reach out to community members and ask them to visit our school.
So, yes, it matters and we need to do what we can to encourage teachers from all backgrounds to enter the profession--a diverse workforce is a stronger workforce in so many ways. In the meantime, those of us who are already teaching can invite in role models that our students can relate to and see themselves reflected in as they envision their own dreams. As adults dedicated to the future success of all of our students, we all have this in common.
Douglas is a Washington State Teacher Leader and an innovator in the Maker Movement. To find out how Doug is creating hands-on, student-led opportunities for his students to connect their learning to the real world, follow him on Twitter at @DaskalosDouglas.