Taking pride in our global diversity
June brings a global celebration of Pride Month. Around the world, activists, students and educators help raise awareness of LGBTQ+ people and the value of diversity within school communities. WIDA is committed to an asset-based approach to affirming the identity of all learners, and as an organization we enact our core value of social justice by challenging discrimination and bias. During this month, it’s helpful to reflect on notions of diversity, inclusion and privilege in international school communities:
- To what extent are all students and educators welcome in your school?
- When you discuss ‘inclusive schools,’ do you just consider linguistic or cultural identity?
Even in one of the most challenging years for teachers and students, international schools around the world are engaging in the important work of challenging inequity. Twenty years ago in Courage to Teach, Parker Palmer reflected that “we teach who we are.” In today’s globalized and interconnected world, inquiring into one’s own identity and intersections is an important step towards greater empathy and equity in the classroom. As international teachers, we project our own preferences and biases onto our classroom. While each human shares the same fundamental traits, choosing whether or not to pay attention to particular dimensions of identity – language, race, sexual orientation, nationality or gender – that we associate with “others” can be a reflection of privilege (Capper and Frattura, 2015). In fact, if we do not recognize how privilege operates, it’s likely we’ve been members of a dominant group and therefore unwitting recipients of privilege. And I acknowledge as I write this – that as a white, cis-gender, able-bodied, English-speaking, heterosexual, male U.S. citizen – I’ve almost certainly received unearned privilege in many situations.
So, what can international educators do? We need to recognize our own privilege and biases. We need to examine our schools through an equity lens. We need to ask hard questions and we need to act. Ignoring systemic inequity perpetuates practices that remain unchallenged, especially when these practices are ostensibly targeted as support. Segregating students from mainstream classes fragments their learning and stigmatizes rather than celebrates cultural and linguistic diversity. Punishing students for using their entire linguistic repertoire as a tool for learning both marginalizes and silences them. Remaining apart from the host community reinforces rather than challenges the colonial legacy of international schools and inhibits social-emotional development through a sense of place. Around the world, courageous educators are noticing, speaking up and taking action to create more inclusive, "glocally" interdependent and socially just schools.
As we move towards the summer break, I hope you take the time to recharge: all educators need and deserve it. I also hope you can take time to reflect and feel a collective sense of pride in our shared work to include ALL students and educators in the global community of schools.
Aw bon ui ja,
Jon Nordmeyer, WIDA International Programs Director
*Lahu: “thank you for bringing goodness to me”