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Diversity Statement

     The experience I have acquired in my career to date has been in a vocational school environment. The students that I have worked with have been diverse in age, cultural, gender identity, sexual orientation and learning style and ability.  I have worked with students as young as 18 and as old as 55. I have worked with students who struggle with learning disabilities such as Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, and ADHD. I have worked with students whose primary language was not English. The diversity that is found in vocational schools mirrors that of community colleges.

     In working with diverse students, I have found that communication skills are essential.  Specifically, being aware that everyone has assumptions and stereotypes about people of different backgrounds is important in order to stop and question those assumptions. I have learned to deal with students individually by taking time to ask them about themselves to get a clear understanding of their goals, preferences and preferred communication styles. I also have learned that people’s past experiences determine how they approach new experiences and that will be different for everyone.

     One specific way I have demonstrated my commitment to diversity in my career is my commitment to fighting against gender stereotypes in the beauty industry. My vocational experience has been predominantly in the cosmetology industry. There is a large percentage of LGBTQIA+ individuals in the beauty industry as well as gender non-conforming people. Although the industry is generally more accepting than other industries, most students come into school unaware of the gender-related stereotypes they hold.

     This is a specifically important area to me personally because I am a transmale. I worked as a cosmetology teacher being perceived as female for 10 years before I medically transitioned to male.  Having taught as perceived female and male I have experienced first-hand the way that men and women are treated differently and the assumptions most people make.  One of the most important things that I have learned from living that experience is that you never know what people are experiencing inside their mind. You need to be open to people and let them tell you who they are.

     When teaching haircutting I counsel my students on the importance of questioning their own assumptions with their clients.  For example, if a client asks for a haircut that is out-of-the-ordinary for their perceived gender, the reaction of the hairstylist can either make the client feel safe or scare them out of trying something new. A haircut may not seem like a big deal, but hair is often a large part of someone’s identity. It’s about creating a safe space where clients feel free to be themselves.  Other than teaching about working with specific clients, I have also worked hard to change the vocabulary of “Women’s and Men’s” haircuts to “Short or long” haircuts.

     I also would discuss with my students other issues that could be sensitive for clients such as a female client who has excessive hair growth or a client who wears a head covering and needs their hair service done in a private room.  In essence, I have been training students for years to be aware of differences of other people and how to find the specific needs of that person and treat them with kindness.

     In order for these teachings to be effective, I need to model this behavior with my students.  I have been working on improving my understanding of people over the past 19 years and I am excited to continue in a new environment with new people.

Teaching Philosophy

     The driving force behind my calling to teach is to create moments in which students feel smart and successful.  This is important because when students feel they can do one thing well, they begin to realize that they could do anything well in the right circumstances.  I want to create a drive and ambition in each student that makes them excited to try new things and push through fear.  Each person’s image of their ability to learn and be successful is often shaped by classroom experiences when they are young.  If they don’t pick up on something right away, they often decide they are “stupid” and can’t learn.  On the other hand, if they are in a classroom where they are taught that anyone can learn, a classroom that trains them how to learn, they will picture themselves as capable.

     To facilitate these moments first, a safe classroom culture must be created.  My classroom is one where wrong answers are not punished but instead seen as a step toward the correct answer.  The physical aspects of the classroom include change.  Change in seating arrangements, groups and even the way tables and chairs are set up.  This also helps decrease fear because change becomes expected instead of feared.  This also helps with memory encoding and retention.   An important step in creating a culture of learning without fear is to teach students how memories are created and retained as well as good study habits.  This gives students realistic expectations for learning and helps them have patience if they don’t understand information right away.  An example of a teaching strategy that fits this culture would be separating the class into groups and assigning each group a specific subject to research and present.  This helps students learn how to find their own information.  The activity also helps give the students ownership over the information which, in turn, increases self-esteem. A third benefit of this type of activity is learning how to work with others.  In this scenario, the teacher is a coach on the sideline instead of a lecturer in the front of the room.  I monitor groups to intervene when there is confusion or a group needs guidance.  This helps teach students the skills they need to take on projects on their own. 

     What I would like my students to leave my classroom with is a set of skills for dealing with challenges, a passion for learning and the confidence that they can learn anything. With a positive view of themselves and a positive attitude toward learning anything can be accomplished.  Students will be able to succeed in classes even when a teacher doesn’t teach in a way that makes sense to them because they will know what they need and will have the self-confidence to ask for it.  These life and learning skills translate to schooling as well as work and personal life.

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