As we begin another school year in the midst of a pandemic, the focus has been on what is happening in our schools. Health and safety protocols have been the subject of heated debate, as have curricula and issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. As a seasoned educator with over two decades in Kindergarten to Grade 12 and public higher education, I would like to clarify some of the misinformation communicated about Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DCI), share how they are taught in my own classroom and why it is such a crucial part of the comprehensive education of our children.
Equity (E) is about providing individualized support to students that addresses possible barriers to success. Equity has long been part of our education system, especially in special education. Equity in Our Schools includes IEPs, 504 Plans, Learning English (ELL), Academic Intervention Services, Early Intervention, One-on-One Aids, 12: 1: 1 Classrooms , wheelchair ramps and gifted programs. Tens of thousands of children across Long Island have benefited from this equity in our system, including mine.
Inclusion (I) is about making sure that every student feels a sense of belonging. In my choral music class, it’s all about removing any potential barrier to entry. Every student who wants to sing has the opportunity to do so, regardless of their ability or experience. Students who do not read music, who learn English, who are disabled, each of them is included, welcomed and valued.
Diversity (D) is about recognizing that each student is unique and recognizing and celebrating these qualities. Diversity in my classroom refers to programming music from around the world alongside works by Mozart, Vivaldi and Bach. This allows my students to see themselves reflected in the music they study and perform. When we study songs from South Africa, we are looking at history. We read from Nelson Mandela and Trevor Noah from The Daily Show about their experiences living under apartheid. We listen to and watch choirs of young South Africans perform this music these days, Black and White together, which was inconceivable 40 years ago. We are talking about how it is a vehicle for considering and struggling with the past, and reconciling the future.
DCI is a necessary component if we are to educate the next generation to understand the world around them. This is especially true on Long Island, which is one of the most isolated areas in the country. When our children graduate from high school, they need to be prepared for a world that is diverse in composition and thought. Education can help bridge the lack of understanding and context that is too often lacking in our siled enclaves.
I am proud to embrace diversity, equity and inclusion in my classroom. It creates a space that every child belongs to and where I learn as much, if not more, from the students I teach. On the way to a healthy, safe and fair school year for all.
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