A school community is a dynamic and diverse one no matter where you are in the world. Add in the fact that we have students and families from over 28 different nations, and you could say that we have an extreme case of diversity. This is both an exciting aspect of international education and also a challenging one.
So how is it possible to have unity in such a diverse environment? With so much diversity it would seem that unity would be almost impossible.
Every family has expectations of what they want Dalat to be for them. In some cases these are rooted in cultural norms and values. In other cases these just come from personal preferences. For example, some wish that we had more sports programs available and more time invested in athletics.
Simply put, no matter who you are, at some point you will want Dalat to be something different than what it is.
Others would say that we don’t need more sports; we need more in the area of academics. Yet others are frustrated because they would like more opportunities for students to travel. Some really appreciate our fine arts expectations in middle school, while others would like us to emphasize more technology or more in the core areas of curriculum. Simply put, no matter who you are, at some point you will want Dalat to be something different than what it is.
So a school is a place where there are a lot of differences and diversity, and yet it is possible for a school to be a strong and cohesive community. For that to happen though, there are some expectations, guidelines, and responsibilities that we all need to work towards:
Understanding and Patience
Each of us in the community needs to understand that we live in an environment where many of us come from different cultures and backgrounds. We need to understand this dynamic so that we can be comfortable with differences of opinions so that the differences do not lead to division. This is not an easy task, but if we are willing to be open to new ideas and listen to others, the differences lead to exciting new possibilities.
Beliefs and Principles
If the school tried to make everyone happy with all aspects of education, then ultimately we would make no one happy. The school needs to know who it is and why it exists and work hard to do so with excellence.
With the high level of diversity we have, the school and its community must work very hard to make sure that there is good communication. When a parent is concerned about something, he/she should feel comfortable discussing it. When the school makes a decision or a change, there should be good communication on the how’s and why’s. The lines of communication need to be open and going both ways.
Celebration of Diversity
Instead of seeing all the differences we have as a hindrance, we need to see them as a blessing. Our children have the opportunity of living with and growing up in a community that teaches them so much about the world and its people. For that we are all truly fortunate.
I think an analogy of how such a high level of diversity can still exist with a strong culture of unity would be that of a symphony. As a symphony plays the musical score, there are many different instruments playing at once. Some are making a completely different sound than others and perform a different task. One group might be carrying the melody while another is providing the harmony.
With all of these instruments playing at once, it is possible for it to sound like chaos. And yet when they each play the music they are supposed to, and know where they all want to go together, it becomes music to those who are listening. I think the analogy fits us well. For a symphony to sound good, it takes a lot of work and practice. It does not just happen instantaneously. The musicians must practice and come together often to work on improving their sound.
The same goes for us at Dalat. Unity is something that doesn’t just happen. Unity will sound wonderful when we are willing to work at it and practice it often.