Emotional Literacy can be a remarkable aid for teachers [and students] to broaden the potential within the classroom. When the actual variety and diversity of us all is understood and fully respected, the classroom turns into a place where learning is the one and only objective. Independently of each student’s abilities or disabilities. A space where the students and the teacher join forces to reach that objective in the best possible way. A virtual or physical room that is Inclusive, where Every person has their natural place and No-one gets alienated for their academic or personal background, learning difficulties or social skills.
As a teacher, I have found it fascinating over the years to welcome new groups of people into the classroom at the beginning of a new course. And what one learns from my position is to be respectful. We are all different, we all have virtues and flaws, we all have different learning styles. And it is some incentive to learn how to work the mechanisms for the group to best function together.
The theory of multiple intelligences explained by Dr Howard Gardner, for instance, can be an example of diversity in the classroom. And his idea of Learning Styles as «a hypothesis of how an individual approaches a range of materials» is well explained and categorized by Dr Horward Gardner in a number of different ways — visual, auditory, and kinesthetic, impulsive and reflective, right brain and left brain, etc.
Also interesting that in search for more inclusive classrooms the Universal Design for Learning (check UDL principles) is organized around three groups of neural networks, and proposes three principles linked to them: providing multiple means of engagement, multiple means of representation and multiple means action and expression of learning. The first one connected to the emotional networks, the second to the recognition networks and finally the strategic networks. UDL considers diversity from the beginning of didactic planning, providing teachers with a framework to enrich and make the curricular design more flexible, reducing possible barriers and providing learning opportunities for all students.
Diversity training is any program designed to facilitate positive intergroup interaction, reduce prejudice and discrimination, and generally teach individuals how to work together effectively.
From the broad corporate perspective, diversity training is defined as raising personal awareness about individual differences in the workplace and how those differences inhibit or enhance the way people work together and get work done.
A competency based definition refers to diversity training as any solution designed to increase cultural diversity awareness, attitude, knowledge, and skills.
Diversity training is often aimed to meet objectives such as fostering understanding and harmony between workers.
One of the most fascinating tools for emotionally intelligent classrooms learnt during my long-standing training courses was The Enneagram of Personality. Not only did I find myself «magically» surrounded by other colleagues that looked like me, had very similar life experience, thoughts and beliefs, but also I found out how interestingly we all have our individual strengths and our weaknesses, which all and each one of us share. It was in these training courses that I became aware of the rich variety of the human nature, and how we all bring our singularities to the group that make each group highly interesting. We all have our talents, our optimal skills, and also our difficulties. All of us. Once learnt this an enormous feeling of respect connected me to the new groups that filled the classrooms every year. It has been the most interesting to bring awareness to this little «simple» detail that can change everything: the atmosphere in the classroom, the position of the students in the big group or smaller groups, the collaborative attitudes, the setting of goals, the sense of belonging, and significance. So this has been a big great instrument to help me understand at one glance how groups may work.
Other newer tools have come most recently through Mindfulness training courses, when I have got involved with students with special needs. And I have to say I feel it was high time this was highlighted in our classrooms as these students obviously have «special» learning needs which need to be addressed. What I am trying to present here are descriptions of the most typical students with special needs, what those special needs could be in relation to L2 Learning, and how we can best help our students with special needs in their learning processes. Special thanks to all my professors, tutors, teachers and classmates from the University of Málaga, CEP Marbella-Coín, Gestalt schools and all Positive Disciple Educators and Encouragement Consultants for sharing their thoughts, experiences and vast knowledge on issues that are of utmost relevance here.