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The legitimacy and viability of diversity in teaching and learning for income diverse students are far from being commonly accepted among educators. Even those who are receptive to them often do not have the depth of understanding and competence needed to guide pedagogical practices. A notion frequently expressed by teachers is the importance of “awareness, sensitivity, appreciation, and respect” for income diversity classrooms. Others confess feeling guilty about the educational and societal injustices that have been imposed upon people of differences status in the society. These declarations give the appearance of change, but, in fact, they are more illusionary than real. Personal awareness and empathic feelings about diversity without accompanying pedagogical actions do not lead to instructional improvements for students from poor families. Positive recognition of and attitudes toward diversity are necessary but not sufficient for dealing effectively with the educational needs and potentialities of diverse students. Some teachers may know very well that attitudes are not enough to accomplish sound pedagogical reforms but still focus energy and attention on them to avoid really doing anything.
Diverse competent instructional action is essential to achieving genuine commitment to educational equity, justice, and excellence for students from poor families. Teachers who truly care about students are persistent in their expectations of high performance from them and are diligent in their efforts to ensure that these expectations are realized. They know that a genuine commitment to transforming educational opportunities for their diverse students requires that they have knowledge of the their characteristics of different groups and of how status affects teaching and learning, as well as pedagogical skills for translating this knowledge into new teaching-learning opportunities and experiences. They also must have the moral courage and the will to stay the course in efforts to make the educational enterprise more multi-diverse responsive, even in the face of the opposition that is surely to come from somewhere.
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Cultivating the competence and confidence needed to implement Teaching Diversity
should begin in pre-service education programs and continue in in-service professional development programs. During pre-service it should include acquiring information about society class characteristics and contributions, pedagogical principles, and methods and material for diversity. This knowledge should be complemented with learning experiences for teacher education students to critically examine existing paradigms of educational thought and practice to determine whether they can be modified to accommodate diversity, or if they need to be replaced. These analyses should be supplemented with supervised practices in designing and implementing replacement models; for example, determining what “authentic assessment” means within the context of diversity.
The absence of any one of these elements of cognitive, pedagogical, and political agency is likely to lead to underestimating the challenges of making education better for students of poor background. This possibility brings to mind pre-service teachers who optimistically but naively think that their desire to be caring and appreciative of diversity and novel multicultural curriculum designs will automatically expedite radical improvements in student learning, only to be disappointed soon after entering the classroom. This kind of hopefulness and optimism is important in teaching underachieving students from poverty environment, but it needs to be anchored in thorough preparation for and commitment to diligent struggle. The struggle requires caring to be complemented by content and pedagogical competence, personal and professional confidence, and moral and ethical conviction.