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noteA Teacher Notes: "On Encountering Diversity"

In my English classes I teach a unit entitled “Encountering Diversity,” where my students engage with interesting texts that demonstrate the diversity of Canadian society and culture. This unit is my response to the B.C. Ministry of Education’s curriculum directive that states, “In particular, teachers should ensure that classroom instruction, assessment, and resources reflect sensitivity to diversity and incorporate positive role portrayals, relevant issues, and themes such as inclusion, respect, and acceptance.”

After the horrific events this week in Paris, it seems even more important to continue and strengthen this unit of study. Currently, I have students from many countries: Afghanistan, Thailand, China, Serbia, Iran, Taiwan, Korea, Kenya and, yes, from Syria as well. Some came as refugees; others chose this country as their home. It is a humbling experience to meet them, to hear their stories and to help them with the language of their new country.

What I see in my classroom gives me faith in our ability to live and work together in a truly accepting and multicultural country. Surely, we were all shaken by the attacks and, understandably, are in the mood to question the direction Canada has taken. Those I meet in my classes are vulnerable, however, especially those who have chosen, through their religious faith, to wear hijab to school. To me, there is nothing unusual to meet and work with those very different from myself. Accepting our differences and celebrating our common humanity is something that makes working at the PALC a special and heartwarming experience.

I hear voices now in Canada reacting against those who would, without full information, deny the entry of the most vulnerable of all: refugees fleeing the kind of terror so amply demonstrated to us in Paris. It makes me happy to know that we, as a society, can rise above our fears and welcome them here.

In my classroom and in my school, I see how a multicultural society looks and feel it in my life in a positive way. We teachers “encounter diversity” daily and, for me, this is one of the best things about our school and community.

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