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Governments and corporations can definitely make positive use of diversity training for employees who deal extensively with the public.
As a teacher I’ve been through a few diversity training programs. Like most people involved, I thought at first that it was not going to be an effective use of my time. However, after actually paying attention to the message I have to say that it did help me realize a few things that have been beneficial in the classroom.
Diversity training is more than just realizing that people come from different cultural and economic backgrounds. One of the key factors in dealing with diversity is realizing that people have different ways of communicating based on their backgrounds. In some cultures, for instance, it is considered impolite to look a person of authority in the eye when speaking to them. In other cultures the opposite is true. It is very easy to misunderstand a person’s intent and attitude toward you if you don’t take this factor into account when talking to certain people. This can lead to conflicts that are completely unnecessary.
Sometimes it’s not just a matter of culture, but of individual circumstances. Kids who come from large families, especially large broken families, tend to be much louder in social situations that kids who come from disciplined backgrounds. As teachers, we often interpret a loud student as intentionally disruptive or disrespectful, which strongly affects how we deal with that student, and it usually results in a negative outcome for that student. Being aware of why this student communicates this way can make us more likely to relate to them in an effective manner, both for the student and the class as a whole.
Good diversity training helps make us aware of many situations like this. Perhaps the best lesson is that we need to make an effort to deal with each person on a one-to-one basis. Our own sense of decorum is not necessarily going to be shared by quite a large number of other people.
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