Another reason I have enjoyed being a part of the class during these lessons is because it has helped me learn more about each student and his/her culture, beliefs, and experiences. After observing and helping out with a few history and geography lessons, I decided to teach a lesson on what diversity is in a more relevant sense. Although students had been learning much about their country as a whole, I thought it would be important to help them understand how diversity applies to every single person, including each and every student in the class. We started by going over what we have learned about South Africa so far – its nine provinces, its major cities, and its eleven official languages. We then started narrowing in on Cape Town, its different towns, different neighborhoods, and different schools. Together, we came up with a list of what can make people different. The students started with physical differences: skin color, eye color, hair color, age, height, weight, etc. I then encouraged them to think about differences that you might not be able to see on the outside: family structure, religious beliefs, jobs people may have, types of homes people live in, languages, hobbies, etc. While creating this list, the students began discussing ways that make each one of them unique. For example, one student mentioned how her parents speak very little English and that she speaks Xhosa (one of the eleven official languages in South Africa) at home. Another student mentioned that he lives with just his dad and that his mom lives in a different home. Many other students shared similar, yet unique experiences of their own, realizing that while two students may be connected in some ways, they also have many differences between them. The students then discussed reasons why they think diversity is a good thing and why they like being unique. We concluded the conversation with an activity which gave students an opportunity to draw their home, their family and friends, and/or the things that they like to do and then share these drawings with the class. Many talked about the people that they consider family and what they enjoy doing with these people.
This was definitely my favorite lesson and class conversation so far at St. Joseph’s. Not only was it interesting for me to learn about each student, but it also gave the students the opportunity to think about how they are all unique and why they can celebrate this diversity rather than be ashamed of it. In a country where there are still significant political and social issues surrounding race, class, and gender, I think it is important for youth to begin having these discussions so that as they grow up, they will hopefully be able to recognize the social injustices that exist and feel empowered to help mitigate these issues. For this reason, I would definitely like to teach this lesson on diversity again in the future. I also think it would be interesting to compare the conversation on diversity I had with the second graders at St. Joseph’s with the same conversation I may have at different schools in the U.S. I feel very grateful to have had this particular experience here in South Africa and would love to observe the similarities and differences in perspectives on diversity from students of different parts of the world.