Skip to main content

Appreciating Culture and Diversity as a Teacher

The United States Census Bureau projected that the U.S. would consist of mostly underrepresented and marginalized populations for the first time in 2043. The 2020 Census confirmed that assertion, finding that the U.S. population was more racially and ethnically diverse than 10 years prior. The survey found that the “most prevalent racial or ethnic group for the United States was the White alone non-Hispanic population at 57.8%. This decreased from 63.7% in 2010.” The Bureau also predicts that the total number of Hispanic, Black or African American, Asian, American Indian and Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander populations will grow to comprise over 50% of the population by 2060.

What does this mean for educators? Teachers must prepare to acknowledge, respect and understand students with substantially different cultural histories and diverse backgrounds. The University of North Carolina Pembroke (UNCP) online Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) with a Specialization in Elementary Education program equips graduates to be education professionals who promote culture and diversity in the classroom.

The Importance of Culture and Diversity

When we speak of culture, we consider where our students are born, the environment they grew up in, what traditions they hold dear, and their preferences for aspects like music, art, food and clothing. We think of culture as stemming from nationalistic patterns and customs of groups of people.

When we think of diversity, however, we consider how our students are different from others, both inside and outside their cultural groups. According to McKinsey & Company, broadly speaking, diversity refers to who is represented in a space. Examples of diversity factors include gender, age, ethnicity, physical ability, religious beliefs, political beliefs and more. Within cultural groups, people are diverse in many ways, even if they were born and raised with a single cultural norm.

How Can Teachers Show Appreciation for Culture?

Even now, most urban classrooms include students from various national backgrounds. Some of these students were born and raised in the U.S. and mirror much of the culture and traditions they have experienced. However, many students immigrate with their families from countries all over the world. They come to the classroom needing more support than is required to overcome language barriers or fit in socially. Teachers must find ways to not only acknowledge but also celebrate their students’ cultural heritages.

Teachers can honor cultural differences by letting students from different cultures be the experts. Teaching other students about traditions, explaining the history and geography of countries and regions, and sharing cultural experiences are some ways to let these students know they are valued and welcome.

In addition to educators teaching and respecting students from other cultures, students in the classroom must develop a sense of mutual respect and acceptance. The traditions and heritage students bring with them, whether or not they were born in the U.S., contribute to the unique tone and atmosphere of the classroom. Teachers must help all students explore the cultures represented and recognize how cultural differences make the world more interesting, not more divided.

How Can Teachers Show Appreciation for Diversity?

Students may come to school from the same cultural background but with diverse opinions, positions and perspectives in a variety of subjects. In addition, students from different cultural backgrounds can share opinions and perspectives even if their cultures seem to clash. When it comes to diversity, the primary goals of the teacher are to promote understanding and respect.

To show appreciation for diversity, teachers must recognize how their own cultural norms determine their behavior and define their ideas. They should examine their biases and stereotypes, engage in cultural conversations, listen openly and commit to educating themselves and being a part of the change to be more inclusive. Deep listening is always key in developing cultural competency.

Preparing to Teach With Appreciation for Cultural Differences and Diversity

UNCP’s online M.A.T. – Elementary Education program prepares you to work with students who represent different cultures and diverse belief systems and abilities. For example, the Elementary Global Citizenship course provides students “with a comprehensive study of the sociocultural context and pedagogies that support developmentally appropriate instruction in global citizenship, diversity, equity, and inclusion instruction in grades K-6.”

When you graduate with this degree, you will have the skills to design and implement lesson plans, prepare curricula that respect and reflect diverse cultural experiences, and differentiate instruction for distinct learning needs. With these skills, you will make a significant difference in the lives of your students as you facilitate their introduction to various cultures and widespread points of view.

Learn more about the University of North Carolina Pembroke online Master of Arts in Teaching with a Specialization in Elementary Education program.

Request Information

Submit this form, and an Enrollment Specialist will contact you to answer your questions.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Or call 844-302-7886

Take the next step

Start your application today!

Or call 844-302-7886 844-302-7886

for help with any questions you may have.