I promise you that I have a really good reason for the picture of gumbo. I’m not just trying to make you hungry. Just watch the video and I will explain everything.
Most reasonable people would say diversity is a good thing. The real challenge for many is stepping out of their comfort zones and embracing the unknown. You see, the barriers that prevent us from embracing people from different races, religions and/or socioeconomic backgrounds are shallow. They have nothing to do with the intrinsic value of that person. No one can genuinely dislike someone they do not know. But society has conditioned us to judge people based on things that have nothing to do with who they are as people. Too often, we allow external factors that have nothing to do with who a person is determine how we feel about them.
The best thing about kids, particularly the little ones, is that they have no hidden agendas when they meet someone. They either like someone or they don’t. Their judgment is simply based on how that person makes them feel. For whatever reason, this changes as we get older. As an adult, you can make the choice to stay in your comfort zone. If you only want to only interact with people from your own race, religion and/or socioeconomic background, you can structure your life to do just that. This comes with limitations and sacrifices you may have to make, but it is within your control for the most part.
While you can control your environment and whom you interact with, it will limit you. Our society is becoming more global each day. In order to be successful, you need to be able to interact with different people. I really appreciate parents who make it a point to send their children to diverse schools. Not only are they preparing their children for a global society, they are also providing them with a better quality of life. True wealth is in relationships. The more diverse your network, the more opportunities will come your way. On top of that, you just become a better person when you have varying experiences.
Just like with any new relationship, time and dialogue eventually break down these barriers that come between us. The challenge for educators is to create opportunities for students to embrace diversity within our schools. The parents have taken the first step by choosing a diverse school. If students come to diverse schools but only interact with students they can externally identify with, it becomes a wasted experience. It is upon educators to facilitate the dialogue that encourages students to see each other beyond what someone presents on the surface but for who he or she really is as a person.
Restorative Practices provides educators with a process for facilitating this dialogue. Community Building Circles create opportunities for students to discover what they have in common with others whom they may not have thought they had anything in common with at first glance. The commitment to proactively building relationships within schools will not be an out of the box concept ten years from now. What many of us already know but the rest will soon discover is that it really does not matter how smart or good you are. The ultimate key to success is your ability to build and leverage relationships. And the fact of the matter is that you will be hard-pressed to find success in the future if you cannot build relationships outside of your comfort zone.
If you haven’t already, take a quick moment to watch the video. In the video, I break down why people need to be open to embracing diversity. Enjoy and leave a comment letting me know what you think.