Guest Contributor: Britt Andreatta, MA, Ph.D.
Teaching in a culturally diverse setting is both an honor and an important responsibility. You have the opportunity to provide college students with crucial experiences and that will make them better citizens for a lifetime.
While your students may represent a wide range of demographics, they may not come from a community or school that is diverse in the same ways that your campus is. This means you should approach everyone as an eager learner who could benefit from some pointers. You also need to stand firmly in your role as facilitator, creating opportunities for the group to share with each other and grow together. Here are some strategies that have worked well for me.
Get clear about what “diversity” means.
Through my years of speaking and consulting, I have traveled to hundreds of campuses and I can tell you, we don’t use this concept in the same way. While we tend to explore the same core 8 identities (race, ethnicity, age/generation, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ability, and military status), how each plays out is very unique to your campus. For example, you might find that subsets of racial or ethnic groups are crucial to understanding your campus climate. Or that your military veterans are deeply divided along economic and service branch lines. Spend time learning what the issues are on your campus so that you can address them effectively.
Address privilege and oppression.
Until we live in a world where everyone is treated with respect and equality, there’s no talking about diversity without discussing privilege and oppression. These are two sides of the same coin that we all experience for different aspects of our identity. For example, I experience privilege as a white person, but oppression as a woman. An African American student is likely to experience oppression around race but will be privileged if he is a heterosexual, Christian, and male. When done well, looking at privilege and oppression can create a place of connection since we all experience age oppression. This model also deconstructs the “us versus them” dichotomy that can create division and discomfort.
Remember that people have pain.
Students, staff and faculty will come to the table with some pain and confusion around these topics. For those who are part of oppressed communities, they will bring the pain of personal experience as well as the collective pain of their family and community. And those who are part of privileged groups will also have pain around being blamed or guilt around their unearned advantages. Your role includes facilitating the emotions and vulnerability that will arise.
Create an experience for sharing and empathy.
The best way through these difficult topics is to foster person-to-person connections. I use interactive exercises that draw from the experiences of the group, and their relationships with each other. My two favorites are “Little Sticky Voices” and “Crossing the Line” (shared on my website: //www.college-success.com/classroom-activities).
Finally, take care of yourself. Connect with colleagues who do similar work, continue to push your own learning edge, and celebrate your successes. I rarely had a session where I felt, “That went well,” because it’s always uncomfortable. But I often have moments where students come back to me, sometimes weeks or months later, and say, “That discussion changed my life. Thank you.”
Dr. Britt Andreatta knows how to harness the most of human potential. Drawing on her unique background in leadership, psychology, education, and the human sciences, she has a profound understanding of how humans are wired.
Her groundbreaking “Potential Paradigm” shifts the way people think about human biology and helps you the harness the best in yourself, others, and organizations.
Britt strongly believes that most organizations are set up in ways that actually block people from reaching their potential. We ignore our biological wiring to survive and belong, and in doing so, undermine our ability to become our best. Her recent TEDx talk, “How Your Past Hijacks Your Future” illustrates her keen insights.
Britt is a seasoned professional with over 25 years consulting, coaching and teaching. Drawing on her research and experience working with businesses, universities and nonprofit organizations, she creates powerful solutions to today’s most pressing workplace problems.
She is the author of six titles on leadership at lynda.com, inc., including Leading with Emotional Intelligence, Having Difficult Conversations, and Leading Change. She currently serves as the Director of Learning and Development and was recently chosen as a top-3 finalist for the prestigious Chief Learning Officer magazine Trailblazer Award.
Dr. Andreatta has served as a faculty member and dean at the University of California, Antioch University, and teaches at several graduate programs. She is the author of Navigating the Research University: a guide for first-year students (3rd ed), a textbook that helps students succeed in college.
A highly sought-after speaker, Britt is known for engaging audiences with her insightful content and humor, as well as sharing practical tools for transformation. Learn more at www.BrittAndreatta.com.