The emotion that filled the air as students packed into the gym for the Diversity Assembly on April 11 was different from the one visible on their faces when teachers announced that tutorial period would be spent discussing the impact of derogatory words a few weeks earlier.
The Diversity Assembly and the Power of Words discussion shared a goal: to cultivate respectful relationships among students. But the responses the two activities drew from the student body could not have been more different.
There is a reason that students got excited about seeing their classmates perform different cultural dances but groaned loudly when instructed to complete worksheets and participate in class discussions about respect. The truth is that an appreciation for diversity already exists on our campus. It needs only to be recognized and explored once in a while, instead of taught to students like a foreign concept.
Opportunities to experience the full scope of the school’s diversity and celebrate the beauty of it should come more than once a year. They can take the place of staff-led discussions, because true inter-student communication needs to be initiated peer-to-peer.
Teachers may not realize it, but the kinds of conversations we are looking for happen everyday—especially in the wake of events like the diversity assembly. They happen naturally and on students’ own terms.
Unlike activities where teachers sit students down to “have a talk,” the Diversity Assembly does not feel like punishment for bad behavior. Students see it as a celebration of the positive, rather than a lesson in improvement from teachers who believe their pupils’ current habits of conduct are inappropriate. It’s no secret that people are much more receptive when they don’t feel they are being reprimanded and patronized.
Diversity is a gift, and any student with friends of different races knows that. Trying to teach students to respect and appreciate it only turns them away. The staff should recognize that with more frequent celebrations of what we already have, conversation and new respect are guaranteed to follow.