One class of diversity is not enough



With UNI being known for its education program, there are still holes needing to be filled.

Lennon Janes, Guest Columnist

As a student studying education in a non-general education field, I always find myself cringing deeply whenever I have to take a general education class. Despite being one of the top universities in the nation for education, there are still some deeply troubling lacks in preparation for preservice teachers specifically when it comes to teacher and student identity.      

In both my classroom observations and conversations with general education teachers and preservice teachers I have found that for many, unless they are putting in work outside of the classroom (which many don’t) there is a severe lack of awareness for student identity and even their own. 

Some of this, of course, is often not the students’ fault because the UNI teacher education program seemingly allows for its students to go blissfully unaware of how the things they say and do negatively affect their students. Some may say that there is simply not enough time within a four year program to delve into all topics that lead to the making of a good teacher. This is true, but to my understanding and perception of the teaching program the goal is not to make perfect teachers but rather to set up a good foundation for preservice teachers to eventually become great teachers. Right now, current preservice teachers are not being given that opportunity in relation to identity. 

A two credit class on diversity and inclusion is currently the only mandatory class that centers around addressing the needs of all students in relation to identity that is listed specifically in the elementary education program. Beyond this class, the only way that general education students may receive additional instruction on how to consider their identity in relation to teaching is based on what the professors of their classes choose to prioritize. Frankly, I have found that many professors in education at UNI do not prioritize the consideration of identity in the classroom or teach harmful practices that could further hurt students. 

With this kind of culture in the teacher education program at UNI, students are bound to not only be unprepared for relating to their students but are also likely going to cause harm while teaching also. There are so many ways that this lack of consideration for diverse learners affect future teachers but they arguably also work to weed out many students from minority identities studying education as well. Not only are education classes ridden with microaggressions against minoritized communities from students, but even the professors tend to shamelessly exhibit displays of microaggressions. This is the culture of the UNI teacher education program.