This article follows the experiences of five teacher-candidates from Queen’s University who sought to create inclusive primary classroom environments at their practicum schools. The authors note that teacher candidates “expressed a belief in adapting classrooms to meet individual students needs but could practice what they believed” (Hutchinson & Martin, 1999, p. 52). Often teacher education programs engage in conversations about responses to diversity in hypothetical idealized situations, whereas the reality of the classroom environment presents a very different space. In response to this disconnect, teacher candidates were asked to write down a dilemma faced in creating an inclusive classroom during their practicum experience to become a case study for them and their peers to respond to.
A key takeaway from this article was the TCs’ experiences in equity: “trying to distinguish between treating students the same and treating students equitably” (Hutchinson & Martin, 1999, p. 55). Of the five case studies, Trudy’s experience mirrored some of my short practicum experiences. She expressed difficulty in knowing how to provide her students attention fairly. She felt that focusing her attention on a struggling student would be unfair to the rest. However, she resolved that her role as a teacher is to provide students what they need- in this case, individual attention was appropriate. From her experience, “Trudy rejected her belief that good teaching meant the provision of ‘the same learning opportunities to all students’” (Hutchinson & Martin, 1999, p. 57). Treating every student the same does not mean that we are treating students fairly. Equality does not equate to equity.
As an individual who values empathy, Trudy voiced the same concerns I have about being able to meet the needs of my students in the class. From my two week short practicum and weekly visits, my five classes have such a diverse make up (in terms of race, sex, learning style, interests, etc). I recognize that my role as an educator is to present content for students to learn. How I go about doing this largely hinges on the individual nature of my students.
Just like larger social issues occurring outside the classroom, treating everyone the same is perhaps an ignorant good-natured way of enacting equality, literally. But a deeper understanding is required that acknowledges that every individual and group has different needs and capacities, and that one method of response may work for some and not others. I appreciated that this article addressed the difference between equity and equality.