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Gunner Brown

EDU 601
Dr. Frey
Field Experience in Diversity
School and Community Context
As a young teacher, there is not the wealth of knowledge accumulated with
experience and connection with fellow teachers. Given this idea, it makes an ability to
judge schools more subjective to personal experiences. Growing up near the area I
currently teach, I had always heard of Elkhorn Public Schools as a wealthy district, with
little diversity on all fronts. I did not have the knowledge to know if those were true
ideas or false rumors until I got hired at Elkhorn South High School.
Simply through observation of the surrounding area, it is not hard to see that
Elkhorn South has a higher-than-average income. Situated on the western side of Omaha,
the community displays many indicators of a suburban area. Houses appear to be very
large, and the community as a whole has a very polished appearance. Because the city of
Omaha grew around Elkhorn, the area maintains a small town aura.
The sense of security and happiness that comes from this sort of suburban
atmosphere is reflected in the statistics of the school. According to the Nebraska
Department of Education website, the enrollment for the 2011-2012 school year, the first
year Elkhorn South had grades 9-12, was 867 students. The following year, 933 students
were reported. And while the current exact data is unknown, there are now over 1000
students enrolled.
Based on that data, the school is growing rapidly, increasing by about 10 percent
each year. That kind of growth reflects the desire for people to live in the Elkhorn

Gunner Brown
EDU 601
Dr. Frey
community. Elkhorn Public Schools has had to maintain very rigid borders to reduce the
concern of rapid inflation of school numbers, according to
It would be easy to assume that having such a large school with increasing
numbers would create a more diverse population. Interestingly, that does not happen in
this situation. Again according to the NDE website, Elkhorn South has maintained a
White student population of 93 percent for the last two school years. The next highest
ethnicity is Asian, which is around 2.5 percent for those two years. Following downward,
about 2.3 percent Hispanic, and one percent Black.
So as Elkhorn South grows, it maintains a general lack of racial and ethnic
diversity. The community is overwhelmingly White. Clearly, the area then has a very
strong Caucasian identity, but lacks a location for the minority groups to celebrate their
own culture. Rather than have spaces that were unique to their group, minorities in and
around Elkhorn South are molded into the majority norms. While this happens
everywhere, the extremity between majority and minority makes it much more prevalent.
The lack of diversity also carries over to the economic status of the students.
Nebraska schools had about 44 percent of their student population qualify to participate
in the free/reduced lunch program from 2011-2013 (Nebraska Department of Education
Website, 2014). Elkhorn Souths average was 3.5 percent for that same time period. That
clearly shows that the community maintains a more wealthy population than can be
expected from the rest of the state. In fact, in high schools with more than 250 students,
Elkhorn South was the lowest percentage of free/reduced lunches in the state.

Gunner Brown
EDU 601
Dr. Frey
Much like it did with social diversity, the lack of economic diversity puts pressure
on those who do not fit into the wealthy status of the rest of the population. Such things
as clothing styles, material possessions, and even general hobbies can become so
expensive that some students may not be able to afford to participate with their peer
groups. This creates a community where everyone at least maintains the appearance of
wealth, even if it may sacrifice some of the other aspects of student life.
Literature Review
In my opinion, perhaps the biggest problem when confronting diversity in
education is assessing how individuals respond to new and challenging ethnic situations.
I want to begin my literature review with observations about how teachers react when put
in these new, diverse, situations. Chamness and Mikulec (2014) found that teachers are
generally hesitant to confront minority students, and the teachers struggle to realize the
outside influence that minorities may face that impact school.
Chamness and Mikulec then observe an issue that is relevant to my current school
diversity. They discuss that creating culturally responsive teaching is difficult in areas
where communities are mostly homogenous and the teacher themselves fits in with that
homogenous group.
The relationship between these findings and Elkhorn South create the big question
for my own ability to teach diverse groups of students: If my school is mostly Caucasian,
and I myself am Caucasian, how do I become a better teacher in regards to diversity
without the exposure to diverse groups?

Gunner Brown
EDU 601
Dr. Frey
Ukpokodu (2011) observed 45 mathematics teachers in all types of schools in
regards to diversity, trying to identify effective uses of culturally responsive teaching. He
found that math teachers generally believed that mathematics was culturally neutral
and that there is a lack of culturally responsive teaching models to emulate.
Upon discovering these teacher shortcomings, Ukpokodu created several different
methods that are required for teachers to become adept at thriving in a diverse classroom.
The first of these involves acknowledging that mathematics is based on a persons past
experiences, and may be culturally different from person to person. More importantly,
teachers must be able to relay the individuality of mathematics so that each person
believes they can be successful.
Secondly, Ukpokodu found that lessons should incorporate relevant content and
social issues. He found that creating problems that the students feel is part of who they
are engages more students. It also helped to have students relate math to the real world
and create more motivation for success.
Finally, Ukpokodu concluded that good culturally responsive teaching requires
teachers to be introspective and observant of their own behaviors. Asking personal
questions and self-critique allows teachers to continually update their methods for
reaching diverse learners.
These conclusions create a great building block for creating an educational action
plan for being a better teacher of diverse students. What I think is really important about
Ukpokodus suggestions is that they are applicable to all students, not just minority
students. Given that my school population lacks diversity, imploring these suggestions

Gunner Brown
EDU 601
Dr. Frey
would help me reach the few minority students, but also might just help me become a
better teacher to all students.
While Ukpokodu focused on strategies to use to positively be aware of diversity,
Morgan (2010) listed one major strategy to avoid when teaching. She studied several
classrooms and interviewed teachers and found that teachers believe they should treat all
students the same. Teachers that do so only benefit students who mesh with the teachers
particular style. Students should be allowed to approach school in the way their culture
Morgan cites several different examples that show how teachers can avoid
problems by letting students do what is comfortable. For example, she tells a story of
two Hispanic boys who were disciplined for not looking a teacher in the eyes. While this
is a normal practice in majority interactions, it is a sign of disrespect for other cultures.
Trying to make students behave like everyone else only furthers their diversity
I feel this is an important point because it is so easy to think of students, or even
sub-groups of students, as the same. Every teacher has tried to make students act the
same, but in reality it benefits all students if teachers were more open to letting them be
individuals. It also means that teachers have to be constantly assessing their students and
how they react to different teaching styles.
While the previous articles focused mainly on cultural and social diversity,
research has shown that the same principles apply for economic diversity. Rosenberg
(2012) also found that embracing students individuality, even in the face of economic

Gunner Brown
EDU 601
Dr. Frey
differences, can help make the classroom and individual students function effectively.
After observing one of the poorest schools in San Francisco begin to have positive
achievement, he discussed the importance of continued professional development.
Rosenberg noticed that as teachers continued to talk and learn about economic diversity,
the more they can adapt and perfect their strategies.
With Elkhorn Souths poverty level remaining very low, it would seem that
knowing about economic diversity would not be important. But it also means that without
that understanding I may be unable to reach those students, however few there may be.
That is why connecting all diversity; both social and economic, to my teaching is the best
way to create a truly culturally responsible classroom environment.
One interesting fact that was discovered during research is that having a relatively
diverse school generally creates a higher performing school. A 2010 meta-analysis
found that students of all socioeconomic statuses, races, ethnicities, and grade levels were
likely to have higher mathematics performance if they attended socioeconomically and
racially integrated schools (Mickelson & Bottia, 2010, in Potter 2013).
So even if my school continues to have a small amount of diversity, fostering that
diversity and making every student belong in their own individual way would potentially
increase the achievement of those students. That alone is enough incentive to increase my
diversity knowledge and application in the classroom. The strategies discovered through
the literature review should help create my action plan.

Gunner Brown
EDU 601
Dr. Frey
Video Review
When first watching the video, I was intrigued that the principal said that students
should forget what is going on outside and focus on the schoolwork. This was kind of
the mindset that Morgan (2010) mentioned educators should avoid, as described above.
It was also very interesting to hear that teachers gravitate to higher performing
schools. That is something I have always thought to be true.
Perhaps the most important part of the video was where teachers discuss fostering
the whole growth of a student and not just their academic growth. To me, this sounds a lot
like the connections that need to be made in order to create a positive student response to
material. The more students feel comfortable and invested in themselves, the more likely
they are to succeed in the classroom.
One thing the video discussed that I think the research in the literature reviews did
not mention was the power of expectations. I definitely think that increasing expectations
in a diverse classroom can drastically influence how much achievement and success can
be had by all students. I wish there was more research on this topic, and I want to use
expectations as part of my action plan.
Overall, I think the video succeeded in examining positive practices for managing
a diverse area. As mentioned above, some of the strategies were different than literature
noted, and others were relatively similar. I think trying to incorporate all these ideas,
while still maintaining an ability to assess and change your thinking, is the true challenge
of the action plan.

Gunner Brown
EDU 601
Dr. Frey
Action Plan

Gunner Brown
EDU 601
Dr. Frey

Gunner Brown
EDU 601
Dr. Frey



Gunner Brown
EDU 601
Dr. Frey

Gunner Brown
EDU 601
Dr. Frey
Field Experience/Interview
The timing of this project worked out quite well for part of my field experience. I
had been scheduled to visit Spain and Italy as part of a local high school trip. We visited
a school while we were there, and the rest of the trip was definitely helpful to push the
boundaries of comfort.
The school we visited was an inner city school in central Madrid. There was no
air conditioning, and the school itself was older than I was used to. All the students were
dressed in very modern clothes, and the classroom was very structured and organized.
The teacher informed us that the students were middle class, with a very low poverty rate.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the experience was how little interaction there
was between the teacher and the students, other than just the normal lecture. The teacher
did not really talk to the students, and students seemed to be in a very rigid environment.
They were extremely respectful to their teacher. It was also explained to us that every
couple hours the students have about an hour break, which they would often use to go
home and sleep, eat a meal, or hang out with friends.
For my second field experience, I decided to interview a local teacher, Greg Kush
at Grand Island Senior High. I chose Mr. Kush because he is a master teacher, and has
taught math for 25 years in a diverse school. According to the NDE website, Grand Island
is a much bigger school, with 2,225 students, with over half of those students being

Gunner Brown
EDU 601
Dr. Frey
Hispanic. The school also has a high poverty rate, with 68 percent of students on free or
reduced lunch.
The fact that Grand Island is so different from my school made it an appealing
target for my interview. Mr. Kush and I talked about many topics about classroom
diversity, and he brought many interesting points to the conversation from the perspective
of an experienced teacher.
At the beginning of the interview, Mr. Kush mentioned that the most important
thing to remember about students who are not raised the same way as the dominant
culture is that they may not think about school the same way. He mentioned that often
diverse students do not have the academic role models at home, and may not be as
prepared for schools. But as a caveat, he said often these students are able to feel less
entitled and work harder to achieve.
Mr. Kush told an anecdote about having a student who had adapted to the
dominant culture, but his parents had not. This created problems between the student and
parents, and the parents were often frustrated with the way the student was learning. He
then understood the challenges the student faced and was more receptive to helping the
Again, Mr. Kush mentioned that cultural diversity can be a good thing for the
classroom. As quoted, If students are willing to share some of the things they have
experienced in other countries they have lived in and/or what their families customs and
rituals include, it can lead to some great discussion (G. Kush, personal communication,
May 29, 2014).

Gunner Brown
EDU 601
Dr. Frey
The last thing Mr. Kush and I discussed was what he considered to be the most
important part of teaching to diverse groups. He said that the most important thing is to
just be aware of the differences between each particular group and be willing to adapt to
help them feel comfortable. Mr. Kush also mentioned that students should feel
comfortable with their teacher, and it is vital that a teacher ask questions to try to get a
good background of a student.
Analysis of Field Experiences
As one would expect, my current school was much different than the one in
Madrid. Students here are kept at a comfortable temperature and are allowed a little
freedom in the classroom, where generally discussion is encouraged. As mentioned
above, students were given breaks and allowed to go home or do what they wanted for a
period of time. Obviously this is much different from the local method of schooling,
where the school day is broken up by period and the students only have a break for lunch,
which they generally eat at school. It was also interesting to also think about how the
teacher in Madrid taught all the subjects, rather than specialized teachers here.
The feeling I had while I was in Spain was that students were very relaxed outside
of class, but very focused and to-the-point in class. It definitely helped me realize how
much cultural beliefs on education could be. The change from that style of classroom to a
looser, discussion based classroom would be very hard for a student to adapt to. It might
explain how some students struggle with such things as class participation.
The interview with Mr. Kush also was beneficial to compare to my current school.
The structure of the school setting was similar, with class periods and different teachers

Gunner Brown
EDU 601
Dr. Frey
for every subject. However, the demographics of that school were quite different. Grand
Island was much more culturally and economically diverse, which made the discussion
interesting and relevant.
I found it especially helpful in the discussion about home environment in
comparison to what I formerly believed about students. Often I feel like I am focused
only on students while they are in class, and it is hard to remember that they have other
experiences outside of the school. I think that thought can help me be patient with
potential differences in the student population and realize that students should be viewed
as individuals, not as a collective whole.
It was also interesting to note how much of Mr. Kushs interview resonated well
with what the earlier research had found. His discussion of making sure teachers ask
questions to know their students, to recognize them all as individuals, and simple
patience with the learning process were all something mentioned in the literature review
from above.
Overall I think that the field experience helped to reinforce many of the things I
had already assessed in my action plan, and had discovered through the literature review.
I feel as though my plan has set me up to begin becoming a more adapt teacher at
handling a diverse classroom. While my current environment may not have a lot of
options to do that, my action plan and experiences in the field have given me the
opportunity to grow further and learn from more experienced teachers and my own future

Gunner Brown
EDU 601
Dr. Frey

Chamness Miller, P., & Mikulec, E. (2014). Pre-Service Teachers Confronting Issues of
Diversity Though a Radical Field Experience. Multicultural Education, 21(2), 1824.
Elkhorn Public Schools. (n.d.). Elkhorn Public Schools. Retrieved June 23, 2014, from
Learning Matters: The Achievement Gap. PBS. 12 Nov. 2003. Television.
Morgan, H. (2010). Improving Schooling for Cultural Minorities: The Right Teaching
Styles Can Make a Big Difference. Educational Horizons, 88(2), 114-120.
Nebraska School Report Card. (n.d.). Nebraska Department of Education. Retrieved June
23, 2014, from
Potter, H. (2013). Boosting ACHIEVEMENT by Pursuing DIVERSITY. Educational
Leadership, 70(8), 38-43.

Gunner Brown
EDU 601
Dr. Frey
Ukpokodu, O. N. (2011). How Do I Teach Mathematics in a Culturally Responsive Way?
Identifying Empowering Teaching Practices. Multicultural Education, 18(3), 4756.
Rosenberg, C. (2012). Using great teaching to overcome poverty. Leadership, 41(3), 811.