What an incredible time and place we live in! The world is so much smaller as technology has bridged the gap between people and provided a platform for us to connect with others who were once inaccessible. This connection highlights the beauty of the world’s diversity and invites us to expand our understanding and need to learn from one another.
During the month of December, we pause to celebrate the end of a year well- lived and the beginning of a new one. People gather with friends and loved ones to ring in this annual change while engaging in deep cultural traditions that are underscored by historical context. We begin reflecting on what we have accomplished, challenges we have overcome and desires for our future. The ways in which we do this are wide and varied and that is special.
As I have reflected on this, I have asked myself how we can be sure to intentionally embrace this gift and cultivate opportunities for our learners to engage in relevant learning experiences that connect them to not only the world’s innovations, but also to their own cultures and unique traditions. You see, I believe it is important that learners see themselves in the things they read and write about. As human beings, we need to feel connected to our environment and see the footprints of our predecessors so that we can glean lessons from their examples and begin to envision the impact we personally want to have on our communities moving forward. As educators, we want to cultivate an environment where students can capitalize on the incredible diversity that exists within our classrooms and learn from one another as they discuss, read and write about the contributions of citizens around the world.
So, how do we do this? What are some things we can do to understand our diversity and equitably integrate this diversity into our students’ daily learning experiences? Saniyyah Khalilallah, an author for the American Montessori Society, said, “Talking with the children can be one of the best ways to understand the diversity in the classroom. Pay attention to different languages being spoken or when the child talks about celebrations at home. Listen when the child is excited to tell you something about a family gathering… Make mental notes about what the child said and ask the child questions while conversing. The child will feel proud to teach the educator something new about themselves and will be thankful that there is an interest. Inclusion starts with listening to the students without judgment.” She goes on to invite us as educators to consider two questions:
- How can I make the intention to respect every child in my classroom?
- What is a goal I can make to ensure each child feels included?
Being an educator in Arlington ISD is wonderful! We are enriched by the incredible diversity we have within our schools. Our responsibility is to ensure that we maximize that gift by integrating meaningful opportunities for students to engage in robust learning experiences that connect them with themselves and those around them. This month, I invite you to consider the two questions Khalilallah poses and commit to doing one or two additional actions to help your learners feel even more included and seen in the things they read, write and discuss. I can’t help but believe that this will not only enrich the learning experience but validate students and help them to recognize the gift they are to each of us. May we, together, have a festive holiday season and learn from each other while we do.
DR. STEVEN WURTZ
Chief Academic Officer