"It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength."
― Maya Angelou
The globalized world of today is responsible for the amalgamation of varied cultures brought under one roof. The same stands true for classrooms. You will hardly ever find a classroom in the present date that consists of a homogeneous group of students―they will belong to different cultures and religions, from different states of the country, maybe even from different countries of the world. With each culture and place comes its own set of values and beliefs, making the people different in terms of the way they think, understand, and act. In such a setting, a teacher needs to be able to form a common ground so that the students are able to understand what is being taught and assimilate the lessons that they are expected to.
For this to happen, the teachers need to be in a position where they understand how to handle cultural diversity and convert it into a strength rather than having it work as a limitation (which it can easily turn into if it is not channeled well enough). In that direction, certain cultural diversity training exercises for teachers need to be undertaken. In this Buzzle article, we will take you through the varied activities, exercises, and games that can be used for this purpose.
Exercises and Games to Understand Cultural Diversity
There are varied steps that can be undertaken to provide training for teachers. These steps involve different types of activities that are highly interactive and educational and are aimed at understanding cultural diversity as well as how to deal with the same.
1. Find the End
In this exercise, a story in an unfamiliar language is written on the blackboard, and the trainees are asked to write an end to the story. They are not allowed to interact with each other or take each other's help. There are three responses that are recorded―either they refuse to do the exercise because they do not understand the language, or they write the ending in English (a language that they are familiar with), or they attempt to construct a response in the unfamiliar language.
Why it helps
This exercise aims to sensitize the teachers and help them understand the difficulties and frustrations that students from other cultures may face in the classroom. This then allows them to plan their lessons keeping in mind the difficulties faced by these students.
2. Interactive Cultural Activities
It becomes important to understand the nuances of the different cultures that the students of the class belong to. This requires interaction with the students that goes beyond the formal training of the classroom. There are several ways in which this can be arranged. For one, parent participation is important. Holding meetings with the parents so that the teachers have an idea of where the students come from helps them understand the students on a more personal level. Other than that, holding culture fairs will also help―not only the teachers to get a glimpse into the different cultures, but also the rest of the students―and that will highlight the differences in the cultures and help them understand what diversity is.
3. Training Outside the Classrooms
Sometimes a student will find it difficult to cope with the lessons or the cultural differences of the classes. This will then have an impact on his performance. In order to help with this, teachers can either choose to provide extra training with the lessons or be around for counseling.
4. Meetings and Discussions
Learning about cultural diversity is an ongoing process and cannot be relegated to a one-time activity. Regular meetings and discussions need to be held. These will provide a platform for the teachers to interact and discuss. Here, the teachers should be encouraged to share the firsthand experiences from their classrooms, and the challenges that they faced in class. Discussions will help the other teachers to be prepared if a similar situation were to come up in their class. Other than that, they will be able to find solutions by interacting in a group.
5. Having the Students Participate in Activities
The most ideal and direct way of training teachers is to hold as many interactive activities and games in the setting of the class. This will not only train the teachers, but will also help the rest of the students in the class to become aware of diversity in classrooms.
One of the simplest and most effective activity is a game called 'I Am'. In this game, each student is asked to write something about their name and provide other details about the same―like the meaning, how they got their name, the importance of their name in their culture, and if they think they are anything like their name. This will provide an insight into the culture and background of that student.
All the students are made to sit in a circle. Each student is called aside by the teacher and asked to pick two students from the circle whom they know nothing about. They are then asked to state a few things that they think about them, like their background, what their parents do, etc. Make sure that these questions highlight the cultural background. It is important that these questions are predetermined so that it does not get too personal or offensive. All this is done in a one-to-one interaction with the teacher.
Once each student is done giving their account, they are asked to come forward and answer the questions on the list (this time around, about their own self). In no way is the choice of classmate and student revealed, yet this proves to be an important exercise because the students know for themselves that what they had assumed about their classmates wasn't necessarily true.
This opens up the minds of the students and changes their attitude to make them more accepting of their diversity.
6. Program for Training New Mentors
Every school needs to have a program that trains new teachers in the varied ways of handling a culturally diverse class. This training should be undertaken by the faculty and teachers who will act like mentors. The program should have workshops, activities, games, and other strategies that will not only make them aware of this situation, but also help understand how to interact and teach the class. Several professional programs have been formed that impart training in this direction.
These days, there are several organizations that provide professional training to the staff and teachers. You can either opt for such a program, or formulate your own program based on the pointers provided in this article―what is important is that you understand the importance and need for a program, such as this one, in today's global world.