Changing classroom culture: Educators manage increasingly diverse student population

When Michigan teacher Jackie Dzedziula began her career, she never imagined needing to say “Don’t cry your mom is coming” in Bengali.

Twenty-seven years ago, most of Dzedziula’s students spoke English. Now, eight different languages are spoken in her class of 34 children, half of whom don’t speak English at home. “I am not anywhere near fluent but have learned key phrases in several languages,” the preschool teacher in Early Childhood Elementary in Hamtramck, Mich., said. “They speak Yemini, Urdu and Bengali, for example.”

Dzedziula’s class is not unlike a growing population of public K-12 classrooms in the United States. From 1995 to 2014, the number of first- and second-generation immigrant children in the U.S. rose 51 percent to 18.7 million. That is 25 percent of children in the country, according to nonprofit research group Child Trends. The National Center for Education Statistics projects that by 2023 at least 54.7 percent of public school children in the U.S. will be two or more races.

Even before it became a highly charged political topic, immigration and cultural integration were emerging as critical classroom issues for elementary and secondary schools across the U.S.

For school administrators in places including Dearborn, Mich., increasing numbers of Muslim students means adapting annual calendars to accommodate students not tied to traditional Christian holidays.

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