For the next few weeks, the Principals’ Office will feature a Minority School Network blog series that is focused on issues surrounding diverse student populations. As classrooms become increasingly diverse, it is important for educators to acknowledge and address diversity issues and to network with one another for support and advice on how to integrate cultural differences within the school.
If you would like to join NAESP’s Minority School Network, please e-mail Jennifer Pascal.
Value the Diversity of Your Student Population    
I am particularly dedicated to exploring issues of racial and ethnic diversity, and I am always amazed by colleagues who state that my elementary school is not ethnically diverse because 99 percent of the students are black. However, within that population, the students represent 20 different nations. It is important for education leaders to understand the difference between race and ethnicity, know the role that culture plays in both, and be aware of the different backgrounds, beliefs, and values of all of your students so that you can meet their individual needs, as well as those of their families.
One of the best ways that educators can learn about the backgrounds, beliefs, and values of students is by simply listening and observing. For example, teachers can have students research and report on their cultural beliefs and values as a social studies project. Parents should be invited to help their child present the report to the class.
In addition to determining our students’ individual needs, often we find that it is also important to concentrate on the needs of staff, many whom have not been trained to work with students from diverse backgrounds. Therefore, it is important that staff members take part in diversity training related to tolerance and eliminating biases and barriers that impede student achievement.
When adults do not understand the values and beliefs of others who do not look or think like them, they are missing out on a valuable learning experience. Valuing diversity will enhance our learning environment because there will be a sense of trust and belonging throughout the school.
What makes your school diverse and what diversity training does your school provide?
Deborah Harvest is principal of the Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Academy in East Orange, New Jersey and is the Minority Foundation Member on NAESP’s Board of Directors

re: Minority School Network Blog Series

I strongly believe in the statements above. However, it is two sides to this scenario. As educators we definitely need to understand the beliefs and values of other ethnicities. I truly believe educators need eliminate biases and highlight diversity. However, there also needs to be a tolerance for the school’s beliefs and values. At times, parents disagree with school policies because there is not an understanding of the school’s beliefs. Are there suggestions for building parent tolerance for the school’s beliefs and values?

re: Minority School Network Blog Series

It might be easier for parents to understand the schools beliefs values, and policies, if they reflect the diverse population that the shool serve.