Diversity Project

I love when you get those “ah hah” moments. Those moments that just make you go “wow”, and completely open you up to new realizations and experiences. Unfortunately, these moments tend to have a rare occurrence, but I think that’s partly what makes them so wonderful.  As a future educator, I really hope my lesson plans have the ability to inspire these types of moments for my students. Now, obviously I know that many lesson plans will not, since learning about punctuation, proper grammar, and diagramming isn’t exactly everyone’s idea of a good time, but I do hope that there are those assignments or projects, every now and then, that are able to reach out and really grab my student’s attention; open their eyes and provide actual meaning, or inspiration in unexpected ways.

I had a teacher last semester, whose project assignment did just that: opened me up to completely new perspectives and impacted me more than I ever thought possible. She called it the Diversity Project. And when she first described it to us, all I could think was, “you gotta be kidding me.” I have never not wanted to do a project so badly in my entire life, a sentiment which all my other classmates seemed to share as evidenced by the pained expressions on their faces, and continuous moaning and groaning. The goal of the project was to gain a better understanding of a diversity/minority group of our choice, and essentially step inside someone else’s shoes, and see the world through their eyes. It was to include a written documentation of our experience and some kind of elaborate, fancypants  project. However, it had absolutely no guidelines, expectations, or standards. You could say, the possibilities were endless. Which annoyed the hell out of me. I didn’t want that kind of freedom. I wanted rules, guidance, direction. So did everyone else in the class. We sat there in what was supposed to be a class discussion of possible ideas, completely stumped and clueless. Our teacher, seeing our frustration, still thought it best not to provide any examples, in hopes that our creativity would flourish and bring us to new and great understandings. As class was dismissed, I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and feel a strange sort of resentment toward this project.

When I got home, I researched different minority groups in Fort Collins. Finally, I began to consider the different perspectives of religion. I was raised in a very strict Christian home, so for years and years I looked down on people who did not hold the same beliefs as I did. The older I got, the more I realized how much narrow-mindedness had been instilled in me. And then I realized this would be the perfect opportunity to experience one of those religions I originally considered weird or taboo, first hand. I picked Buddhism because it was so different from anything I’d been brought up with. So, the following Sunday, I attended the Buddhist Center here in Fort Collins, and then was allowed to conduct an interview with the Buddhist monk who spoke in the service. And let me just say, for me, it was such an amazing, eye-opening experience! The Buddhist teachings were so interesting, and the people so friendly and welcoming. It really made me question how much I judge people from different diversities, minorities, etc. based off the simple fact that they are different from me. It honestly made me so much more open to different perspectives, and learning about all different backgrounds, beliefs, lifestyles, etc. I legitimately could not put into words the impact this project ended up having on me. The project I originally hated with such a burning passion, ended up delivering one of the most glorious “ah hah”/ “wow” moments I’ve ever experienced. And it was so unexpected.

After all of us finished our projects, we took turns presenting them to each other, and it was incredible to see what some people came up with! One girl, who strictly wore dresses and tights to every class, decided to push herself out of comfort zone and dressed up as a man for a day, to see how differently people who dress against their gender roles are treated in society. A slightly older lady in our class did hers on age discrimination in the college setting, and detailed how other students would avoid partnering up with her in group assignments simply because of the 15-20 years she had on them.

Every project was so creative and so insightful; each offering an important lesson to be learned. That is why this assignment always sticks out in my mind when I think back on all my educational experiences; as well as the professor herself and the joy she brought to learning through her creative, and out of the box lesson plans. The impact this class had on me, is the impact I hope to have on my future students some day. I hope to have lesson plans they don’t merely learn from, but find meaning in. I hope to deliver them those shinning moments of “wow”, and the joy that comes from new and impactful discoveries.

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