Every classroom is populated by students representing some degree of diversity. Teachers will inevitably encounter situations that represent different values or new ways of thinking and behaving in relation to our own. We may experience an emotional reaction that requires further exploration and self-examination to understand (see Awareness and Personal Reflection Exercises).

As teachers, we are continuously called upon to use our skills and experience to assess new situations as they arise. We need to determine whether a situation is hurtful or harmful to anyone in any way. Assuming we have assessed that no one’s rights are threatened by a situation, we then need to take responsibility for our own emotional response.

student showing his work to teacher

When faced with a situation challenging an essential part of our value system, we may well feel confused, upset or overwhelmed. Such emotional reactions are part of the process of stepping outside one’s own frame of reference and seeing that of another person. The task is to recognize our resistance to difference while fostering an attitude of openness and non-judgment (see Fawzi).