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Chapter 3: Teaching Is Adapting to Student Diversity - page 13 / 16





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adolescent years.

2.  Ms. Goldstein loans Tracy some of her own books to read.  Many of these have been written by women authors, who, like Tracy, are African American.  Maya Angelou and Gwendolyn Brooks have become Tracy’s favorites.

3.  Ms. Goldstein and Tracy have made it a habit of “checking in” with each other to catch up on recent events in each other’s life.  Ms. Goldstein tries during these meetings to respond in a positive way to the negative events with which Tracy must deal.  For example, Tracy works at two part-time jobs in addition to going to school.  Rather than focusing on the heaviness or unfairness of this burden, Ms. Goldstein praises Tracy for her resourcefulness. She also works with her to devise strategies for completing her school work in the face of this burden.

4.  Tracy asked if she could call Ms. Goldstein at home “in case of an emergency.” Although Tracy has yet to make such a call -- even though she has faced what seem to Ms. Goldstein to be emergencies -- she appears to take comfort in knowing that she can make the call if need be.

5.  Ms. Goldstein has visited Tracy at home on several occasions.  Sometimes the visits are to provide some additional tutoring, but other times they are simply to have dinner with Tracy and her family.

6.  Tracy is beginning to think about college.  Ms. Goldstein has helped her explore several options and obtain admission and financial aid materials.  She also arranged for Tracy to visit several nearby colleges and visit with African-American college students who are majoring in English and creative writing.

Tracy recently told Ms. Goldstein that she is more hopeful now than at any time in her life.  Tracy is looking forward to college and her goal is to graduate and to live a good life.  “I don’t need to rich,” she tells Ms. Goldstein, “I just want to be proud of myself.”


The four hypothetical classrooms described previously have illustrated several strategies that teachers can use to ensure that they adapt to student diversity in an equitable and effective way.  We formalize these strategies in the remainder of this section.

1.  Organize activities in a way that provides male and female students equal access to educational opportunities.  There is considerable evidence that male students are allowed to dominate many activities in the classroom, particularly those related to math and science, and thereby gain access to a richer set of educational experiences than are available to female students (Rennie & Parker, 1987; Sadker & Sadker, 1994).  Ensuring equal access to such experiences, therefore, will require that teachers actively monitor and adjust patterns of student participation within the classroom.  We saw several examples of this strategy in action in our hypothetical classrooms.  Ms. Noonan, our preschool teacher, intervened in an all-boy block-building competition by forming teams, one of which included an interested girl.  In Mr. Singh’s seventh-grade science class, Mr. Singh set up mixed-gender teams whose members worked together toward a common goal and in competition with other teams.  Moreover, Mr. Singh monitored the organizational plans of the various teams and corrected gender-based inequities in the assigned roles as needed.  What is important about these examples is not just that the teachers engineered interaction between male and female students, but also that the approach required cooperation among male and female students.  This strategy has been shown to be effective in increasing the access of female students to male-dominated academic domains and activities (American Association of University Women, 1998).

2.  Encourage exploration of gender stereotypes and more flexible approaches to gender roles.  There is little doubt that the differences in academic achievement seen between males and females reflects either directly or indirectly the gender stereotypes held by parents, teachers, policy makers, and others in today’s society (Eccles et al., 1990).  Challenging these stereotypes, therefore, is a critical element of any

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