„Diversity is a resource.” It’s a sentence you hear in teachers training all the time. I always believed this statement to be true, but as a soon-to-be teacher it is also somewhat unsatisfactory. There is no simple „How to“ or toolkit to extract this resource.
So how can I use diversity as a resource? From a practitioner’s perspective it is somewhat of a nightmare, because it sounds like a task, which needs a lot, even a lifetime of experience.
Besides mandatory traineeships my experiences in the UniClub as StudyBuddy, where you support students once a week in an one on one setting and the „LernClub“, where you support a variety of students, helped a lot to get necessary experience on how to handle diversity more resourceful. I can’t provide answers here, but some insights in working with diversity and how it relates to the earlier mentioned statement.
My student buddy, a female refugee girl from Syria who arrived in Austria in 2015, and I are learning together now for about two years. We have reached the point, where we know how to work around each other. Some things that work for both of us pretty well, are not working for another one in the „LernClub“.
In this process I picked up that handling diversity is not a challenge that concerns me, but one that concerns everyone involved. In my experience, you have to engage with each individual in order to create an environment to make learning as fruitful as possible.
Maybe there is a big difference in school settings and UniClub settings, but as a teacher trainee it is a nice setting to work in small groups or in one on one settings. This is not really possible in schools. In this process you gain confidence in your own abilities and every experience with a different student helps you a lot to understand how diverse every class can be and how carefully you have to reflect your own practice and lesson plans to make sure to include everyone as best as possible.
After I ‘ve talked a lot about the challenges of diversity, so finally I want to share an experience, where we used it as a resource. A student had an assignment in physics. I have a background in natural sciences, so I told him I could at least try to help him. We tinkered around a bit had a solution that seemed plausible but was not correct according to the results book. So, we involved a math teacher trainee to see if the math was correct. So now three people tinkered on the problem and we still couldn’t solve it, because the math seems correct and he has now training in physics either. After some time, another student walked by and looked at the problem too. He couldn’t understand one step which was the solution to the issue. This scenario opened my eyes.
It didn’t took two „experts“ to solve the problem, but one student not understanding a part of the solution to make us all realize, where the issue was. With no intention or toolkit, we used our diversity as a resource in a way that cannot be taught, but practiced.
The UniClub accompanies young people with experience of flight or migration on their way to their secondary-school leaving certificate.
by David Ala
The UniClub accompanies young people with experience of flight or migration on their way to their secondary-school leaving certificate. Find out how you can support the UniClub at: https://uniclub.at
This story is part of Multinclude Inclusion Stories about how equity is implemented in different educational environments across the globe. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
The author is studying history, psychology and philosophy to obtain a teaching degree at the University of Vienna.