In schools around the world, it is not uncommon to find students wanting to be rid of their differences and just "fit in" with the crowd. A student may internalize, "Why would I want to stick out of the crowd with my holey trousers and shirt that smell of the herbs and spices my family cooks with?" or "I'm the only student here that speaks Spanish. I wish I didn't have an accent." And the list of self-reflections/criticisms about their identity continues. School is a place where students are still learning how to negotiate the social terrain and be respectful, fair, and friendly. They are still learning who they are, what they like and dislike, and how to communicate in a way that is not rude but is clear, concise, and respectful. Students' characters are still developing as is their sense of self-dignity and ethics.
The desire to form bonds of friendship through similarities rather than differences is something all students go through. One thing I encourage my students to do is to embrace and find pride in their differences. Yes, it is a big risk to stick a limb out and say loud and proud that you like the color orange when everybody else likes pink and purple. Yes, you may encounter people who may tease you for being different, for being poor, or for being part of a different ethnic group. But, that does not mean you will not find people who also cherish the same things you do. Yes, you will find solidarity and respect no matter how much you think you are alone.
From an early age, children should recognize that there are many different kinds of people, ways of life, and values. When they take that first risk of recognizing and being proud of who they are, where they come from, and the type of person they want to be, that is the first step in building self-confidence.
A good read aloud to explore the idea of difference and similarity is the book People by Peter Spier. I recommend it here because I encourage all educators to read it to their students.
The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and do not reflect those of institutions, organizations, or employers associated with me, past or present.