In addition to the above information related to diversity, the School of Education believes that there are four additional constructs that are important for lead teachers to possess. These are:
- Equity/social justice
- Cultural awareness/self-identity
This vision of diversity, represented by an adaptation of the Circle of Courage from the Sioux Nation, is a medicine wheel, a sacred circle, divided into 4 quadrants. The sacred circle suggests the interconnectedness of life and represents the sacredness of the number four - the four directions, the four elements of the universe, and the four races. According to this model, all four parts of an individual's "circle" must be intact for that person to have a self-secure, pro-social approach to life. Relative weakness in any of the four areas of development results in adjustment difficulties. The Circle of Courage at the School of Education transposes the original four quadrants into the four constructs previously mentioned. Belonging, within the original Circle of Courage, is maintained due to its importance in education.
Human beings have a basic need to belong, to be accepted, and to feel socially included and connected. The first construct belonging, focuses on the necessity for teacher candidates to incorporate diverse perspectives of family and community in the learning process. The psychological sense that one belongs in a classroom and school community is considered a necessary antecedent to the successful learning experience. Teachers must maintain a safe, inclusive, culturally responsive classroom where all children feel valued and have a sense of belonging. Importantly, the belonging construct asserts that teachers believe that each student matters and that each one deserves and desires to be loved and accepted. Finally, the construct of belonging asserts that families of all types should be welcomed into the classroom.
Within the equity/social justice construct candidates are prepared to assume an active role in shaping the social, cultural, and political future of their communities and beyond. Teachers must know how and be able to provide students with equitable access to knowledge and an understanding of the realities of their lives. Teacher educators, therefore, help candidates to acknowledge and support the personal and individual dimensions of experiences while making connections to and illuminating the systemic dimensions of social group interaction. Teacher educators also help candidates to develop effective strategies for managing classroom situations of discrimination or cultural conflict by differentiating classroom management based on the needs of the student and ultimately leading to successful classroom community memberships.
Cultural awareness/self-identity, the third construct, is the ability and willingness to objectively examine the values, beliefs, traditions and perceptions within our own and other cultures. At the most basic level, it is the ability to walk in someone else's shoes in terms of his or her cultural origins. In the Cultural Awareness and Self-Identity construct candidates reflect on, evaluate and acknowledge their own cultural identity and how that identity shapes their perceptions of and relationships to the students they serve. When a teacher is aware of students' cultural identities they attempt to see cultural schema from the view/perspective of a native of the culture and begin the process of shedding stereotypical views of students. They also become advocates for the students they serve, seeking information from a variety of sources to analyze and evaluate conditions and policies that shape communities and schools and evaluate conditions, policies, and implementation of services related to a school environment. They model appropriate behaviors, speech, and attitudes that show respect for the rights and concerns of others and avoid imposing values that may conflict or may be inconsistent with those of others’ cultures or ethnic groups. Finally, they plan instruction around student’s experiences, interests, and cultural competencies.
The final construct, family and community, represents an expansive literature base representative of the social sciences, education, and medicine. In order to effectively instruct all learners, teachers must understand the various ways people envision family structures, and how diverse family and community values and practices can affect educational motivation and achievement. Teachers need to understand that there are many ways to form a family and raise children and that all families have strengths and weaknesses. To better teach a student, the teacher needs to recognize and appreciate the family within the context of the micro and macro cultures (Szapocznik & Krutines, 1993). To effectively teach all learners, teachers must understand the various ways people think about families and how family and community values and practices affect educational motivation and achievement.
An important factor in the family and community construct is the recognition that prejudice, discrimination, and homophobia are still rampant in society today (Kruks, 1991) and it is the responsibilities of teachers to recognize the challenges children face within their families and at school. From sexual preference to children of gay parents teachers must be aware of and address the various factors, which contribute to the multiplicity of problems that face youth.
Finally, for teachers to effectively teach an increasingly diverse student population, they need to develop specific knowledge, skills, and dispositions related to diversity. Teachers can increase their understanding of their students' cultures by listening to families with respect and without judgment (Pang, 2011).