The Tallest Latino You’ll Ever Meet

Standing 6′ 6″ tall, Paulino Brener is the self-proclaimed tallest Latino you will ever meet. Now, I don’t know if this is true or not, but I can say that he is, in fact, the tallest Latino that I have ever met.  I had the great pleasure of tweeting up with @paulinobrener last week.

The Argentine native and current resident of Minneapolis, Minnesota was passing through Chicago last week which led to the idea of a tweet up. I’ve enjoyed interacting with Paulino on Twitter for over a year now and was very excited to have the opportunity to meet him face to face. For those of you who don’t know, or don’t follow, @paulinobrener, he is a language educator extraordinaire, actor, and Esperanto aficionado.

Much more than that, Paulino is a wonderfully witty, wacky, charming, talented, and intelligent man as I had the privilege of finding out first hand over our mid afternoon parrillada at Tango Sur. His passion for incorporating theater and music into his instruction is nothing short of amazing, inspiring me to look for ways to increase the use of theater and music in my own classroom.

It was a lovely afternoon, filled with good food and great conversation. I can, honestly, say, the only thing that comes close to rivaling Paulino’s great height, is the size of his heart.

(We’ve both agreed that the next time we tweet-up, we’ll be having salad.)

@speakspanglish & @paulinobrener at Tango Sur 08/22/10
@speakspanglish & @paulinobrener at Tango Sur 08/22/10

When Diversity Isn’t Diverse

Diversity in public schools continues to be a hot topic in education. Frequently, the theme of diversity presents itself in the mass media. However, what is diversity? Is it just another buzz word in education?

By definition, diversity is the presence of variety. Typically, in education, diversity is used to describe the student population of a school based on race and ethnicity. Schools with a student population of varying backgrounds are labeled as being diverse. However, how diverse are they?

School districts throw around the word diversity and claim to celebrate that same diversity within their schools, frequently. So much so, that “diversity in education” is being used in situations that, truly, aren’t diverse. In addition to being used as a marketing point for private and charter schools, it is quickly becoming the politically correct catch phrase to use when referring to schools with high populations of non-white students.

This is problematic for many reasons. However, one of the most concerning impacts of this is the misrepresentation of the student population. Recently, I listened to Dr. Lourdes Ferrer speak at a school district. She explained that a school where the vast majority of students are Latinos is not diverse, it is a Latino school. She emphasized the importance of recognizing the make-up of the student body in order to best serve the students within a school.

Misrepresenting the student population of a school or a district by claiming that diversity exists when it is largely composed of a single group can be detrimental to students’ academic success and their overall experience within the education system. Their instruction suffers because it is designed around the idea of meeting the needs of diverse learners, and not the needs of the actual student body.  As educators, it is imperative that the needs of our students are met. We need to be attune to the specific needs of our students. This can only happen if we are aware of what our students needs really are. It comes from knowing our students, their backgrounds, their families, and the community in which they live. It comes from changing the implications of diversity in education.