I consider myself fortunate to attend a school where diversity exists among the students, staff and teachers. From an exterior view, the John D. O’Bryant High School looks like a school that accepts all individuals no matter their race. If you look around, most students are friends with a wide variety of people, rather than just maintaining relationships within their own race or ethnicity.
However, other schools are not as diverse as the O’Bryant. In these schools, students who are not part of the majority often feel left out both socially and academically, and are not treated as equals by their peers and teachers. This was a major issue at Boston Latin School where headmaster Lynne Mooney Teta eventually resigned following allegations that student complaints of racism were not taken seriously enough.
Do teachers hold bias and preconceived ideas about a student because of their race? How does this affect the way students learn? These are questions that unfortunately are relevant to today’s educational society. Below are the opinions of Sara Valencia, Maria Nova and Love Victor, three juniors at the O’Bryant on their experiences:
Q: From the students to the staff, our school is very diverse. How do you feel about such diversity?
SV: Over the course of three years at this school, I’ve met many different and new people from different cultural backgrounds. I think it’s good to be able to expose yourself to new things.
MN: I like the fact that there is diversity among teachers and students. I feel like that gives students a feeling of comfort and a chance to connect with their teachers.
LV: I do not think there are not enough white students at our school. However, we are diverse and have a great community.
Q: Do you enjoy learning in an environment where so much culture exists? How have you learned to adapt to that, or what have you learned from your peers?
SV: I personally enjoy surrounding myself with different cultural backgrounds because I get a sense of how their culture influences them. Students also learn a lot from one another and that sometimes contributes to the vibes in the classroom. I have always respected cultural differences, and at the OB, I have associated myself and made friends with different people. I think it’s a good and important skill to have, to be able to accept, respect and make friends with all people, without race or culture being a barrier.
MN: I enjoy learning in an environment with such diversity because I learn more and more from my peers around me. They have different experiences and backgrounds, and that enriches the learning that occurs in school. In my opinion, it’s easy to adapt to diversity because it’s so interesting to learn and form relationships with students different in cultures.
LV: I enjoy it because I am able to learn new things. I have been able to understand different cultures and how they shaped that person.
Q: Do you believe teachers hold any prejudiced ideas? Do you think they treat students differently based on their race because it may be different than their own? Have you personally encountered this from your teachers?
SV: I feel as though some teachers may hold these thoughts because of racial backgrounds. I’ve noticed how some students are treated differently by both their teachers and their peers because of their accent. In all the schools that I have attended, including this one, I have not personally encountered this because the teachers that I’ve had focus more on the student’s behavior than their race.
MN: Honestly, I do think that some teachers treat students differently based on their race or ethnicity. Some teachers prefer students of their race and treat students that aren't [their race] negatively. From personal experience, I haven't been treated differently by teachers. However, I have heard of instances where students experience different behaviors from teachers, such as one student being favored and being expected to do more than the other students.
LV: Teachers do not hold any prejudice thoughts. Maybe sometimes, when it comes to gender. Some teachers tend to be nicer to girls than boys.
Q: What changes do you think the school needs to make to create a more tolerant environment between students and teachers?
SV: Students and teachers need to always maintain an open mind. This sounds simple, but this is sometimes forgotten. This would ensure that students receive the same education.
MN: I don't think there is much that schools could do to create a more tolerate environment between students and teachers. It is very difficult to try to improve the problem because we can't take actions that may lead back to segregated schools. And even if rules are placed on schools, they may not always be enforced; teachers and students may not always follow through with rules.
LV: To create a more tolerant environment between teachers and the students, schools must ensure that everyone has a fair say.
One thing is clear from these conversations: schools should encourage environments where students and teachers are tolerant of one another. The value of diversity in schools is extremely important because it introduces students to other cultures that are not their own and helps them understand their surroundings. School is the beginning of a student’s career and if students feel excluded because of their race and culture, imagine how this would affect them in the long term once they enter the real world.