Teaching Teachers about Equity in the Classroom

Teaching Teachers about Equity in the Classroom

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We’re wrapping up our J-term Multicultural Dimensions class this week, and I thought I’d provide some final reflections. The last chapter of our book is centered around why it’s important for teachers to be taught to educate through the lens of equity in the classroom.

As a teacher, or aspiring teacher, would you say you treat your students “equally”? Even though “yes” seems like a sensible (and good teacher) answer, the answer should be “no”. In a classroom, we should strive for equity. Here’s the difference. With equality, everyone gets the same treatment and educational expectations/outcomes without regard for their individual needs. With equity, everyone’s needs are taken into account and students are treated as individuals. Everyone has the same quality of outcomes, but individual differences like learning styles, home life, etc. are taken into account as well.

Teaching equitably is especially important in urban education. Equitable teaching requires that educators take into account the structure of privilege and unfair disadvantage that so often goes hand in hand with race and class in education. No child deserves a subpar education, but many urban students end up with one based on their zip code. I could go on a long tangent about how minorities were only allowed to get mortgages (and really awful ones) in certain areas of Chicago during the first half of the 1900s and how the effects of that oppression are still playing out in the city today and have a tangible effect on education that is rarely talked about. I think that would turn into an entirely different blog post. Instead, I’ll link to a couple of books here and here.

I’ll be honest, the concept of taking into account 30 students’ individual needs seems hard. In my own education (I went to public and private schools and can say the same about both), many of my teachers taught their classroom with one-size-fits-all, equality-based expectations. It didn’t always work for me, especially in math. Teaching equitably is harder than teaching equally, but then again, who is it about? Me or the 30 students in my classroom? My wants and needs are outnumbered. It’s not about me.