Summer is here – the scorching sun melting down your body like a candle burning in the entire day, the humid air drying everything from including the moisture locked in our hair’s end tips, and the heat that make us run to the nearest store selling this infamous Filipino dessert that fortunately tumbles down the magnanimous dominance of summer over us, even temporarily. Imagine that mixture of colorful fruits and syrupy vegetables gently rolling in and filling that tall parfait glass, crowned with white and smooth ice shavings, showered with silky splash of evaporated milk and finished with a spoonful of ube halaya and leche flan that screams “hallelujah” as it sends you in cloud nine as the mixture of all these swirls in your mouth. All rise to the halo-halo.

Everyone that I know likes halo-halo, well who doesn’t? If you will look closely onto one, whether from your favourite “merienda” stall by that dusty road or from those posh restaurants that sell overpriced halo-halo because of their brand and out-of-the-world ingenuity (including ingredients outsourced from the cave of wonders) a glass of halo-halo is still composed of delectable ingredients all possessing differences and variation in colors, texture, shapes and taste. It is actually the mixture and diversity of the ingredients that make halo-halo probably the king of desserts whether it is summer or rainy.

Just like in a classroom, the students are the stars – they are the most important elements in a classroom ecosystem, without them there are no teachers that will do the teaching, facilitating and guiding. What makes a typical classroom interesting is the students’ diversity – the differences and mixtures of race and ethnicity, talents and skills, social beliefs and principles, age, gender, and learning styles converging in one learning hall. Sometimes it’s the differences that make life difficult but on the other hand, it is the differences that make life more exciting, more interesting, and more vibrant (Who wants a halo-halo with only one ingredient?).

Addressing and celebrating diversity in a classroom is about providing differentiated approaches to different students and employing neutral instructional materials and lessons without bias, prejudice, and personal subjectivity. To be an effective teacher, the same should be able to create connection to his and her students the students to their peers in the class.  You know that a teacher embraces diversity when he or she has the ability to smoothly establish social and cultural linkages to different learners in a single classroom so they feel welcomed, appreciated and accepted. Teachers use learner’s own experience and background to widen their perspectives to the bigger picture outside the classroom which results to the students developing deep understanding about their academic lessons. Each student must complement each other by embracing and accepting everyone’s differences through respect and openness, this creates a heterogeneous environment with one goal and walking in one direction.

To go beyond superficial level, teachers must first observe, analyze and understand learners’ distinct characteristics before creating a lesson plan and preparing his or her instructional materials. The learning tools should go well with everyone and it shouldn’t be selective in nature to avoid unnecessary frictions and misinterpretations inside the classroom.

“If our goal is to reach all students and have as many students as possible achieve at high levels, then we need to understand where they’re coming from, how their families are rearing them, and the kinds of values and approaches to learning and using language that families are using so that at least we understand what kids are coming to school with,” by Elise Trumbull, coauthor of the new ASCD book Managing Diverse Classrooms: How to Build on Students’ Cultural Strengths (2008).

My question is, would you like a tall glass of halo-halo filled delightfully with assorted ingredients which have different flavours, textures and tastes that taste great altogether or a glass of orange juice which is well…orange?

Reference:

Sloan, Willona N. February 2008. ASCD. Celebrating Students’ Diverse Strengths. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/newsletters/education-update/feb08/vol50/num02/Celebrating-Students’-Diverse-Strengths.aspx on March 11, 2015

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