This is the current state of my work email box right now…
Figure 1: Uuuuugggghhhh.
At this point I am ready to detonate a nuclear bomb in it and just start over. There is no way I will ever sort through that quantity of unread email. Also, I don’t really think I want to. Clearly nothing here has unraveled because I don’t read my email. I am, however, trying to sort my way through my Gmail where all of you lovely darlings email me. That’s where I found this gem of a question…
Most awesome, sexy Dr. Isis,
I am in need of a bit of advice. I’ve begun applying for teaching jobs at small colleges, and one thing all of the job postings have in common is the ability to teach to students of diverse backgrounds. Any advice on how to say my teaching experience isn’t just a bunch of well-off white kids?
Also, here is a super sexy pair of shoes that I make me want to die every time I see them. If only grad student made enough to spare $300 on awesome shoes.
Between the “sexy Isis” part and the recent penis vein post, search engine traffic should be pretty hilarious for the next few weeks. Surely one could use some diversity from today’s three searches for “public fucker’s space.”
But back to diversity.
I think it is great to keep one’s mind geared toward racial parity, but I don’t think that’s always what universities and colleges mean when they ask about “diversity.” Not to say that creating an environment that supports the equitable advancement of everyone, regardless of racial/ethnic/cultural background isn’t important. It is. But it doesn’t totally encompass diversity and “well-off white kids” isn’t necessarily it’s antithesis. A reply to a statement on diversity depends largely on what the institution’s goals for diversity are.
Video 1: After all, rich white kids have problems too.
I think the question is not who you have taught in the last necessarily, but how do you teach in a way that encourages understanding, participation, learning, and advancement from everyone? That could mean underrepresented ethnic minorities. Or, it could mean other groups. The university where I did my undergraduate degree had a large LGBT community and a couple of my professors were advisors to professional LGBT student groups and there was a strong commitment there toward their advancement.
The state where I completed my undergraduate degree is also a crazy hodgepodge of economic extremes. Areas of extreme poverty and extreme affluence butted up against each other. The quality of pre-college education closely mirrors the economic environment. More affluent areas generally generate more prepared college freshmen. More empoverished areas generally generate less prepared students and both of these groups converged upon the same college and ended up in the same freshman-level courses. In my post-graduate life, I have befriended some of the faculty who taught my courses and it is interesting to listen to them reflect on teaching a single course of people with such varying levels of preparedness.
I am currently toying with the idea of applying for a job teaching interdisciplinary material to a very diverse group of students – medical students, engineers, and life sciences students. The job application there asks for a statement on how one would approach a diverse group of students from different disciplines. That’s not necessarily racial/cultural diversity and here the college has a very specific idea of diversity.
I think that answering this question is an opportunity to demonstrate yourself to be a thoughtful, reflective individual. If, as your letter intimates, you have been teaching for a while, you probably have had an opportunity to teach a diverse group of students. What has that meant for you and how have you been successful at it? What tools have you developed as a result of these interactions that you can now bring to the table? But, most importantly,consider this an opportunity to communicate how you will help a university or college acheive its diversity goals and not necessarily a hoop that must be jumped through.
Assuming, of course, you know what a college or university’s diversity goals are. You should probably find that out first.