Nurturing an inclusive environment for young students is an important part of a teacher’s job. As well as protecting minority-group students from marginalization, inclusivity training is an important part of every child’s education as it teaches tolerance and appreciation of difference.
Working out how best to achieve inclusivity without singling out certain students for their differences can be tricky, however. For anyone wondering how to facilitate a more tolerant and welcoming classroom, we’ve put together a few helpful tips.
1. Be conscious of the teaching resources you are using
Many teachers fail to realize when the books and educational resources they use are authored solely by straight white men. As well as being limiting intellectually, studying the same kind of world views can be boring for students. Offer them a more inclusive education by studying books, speeches, and articles by a diverse range of voices. If you need a little help finding new books to study, check out this helpful guide.
2. Look out for harmful language
Whilst racial slurs and offensive curse words should obviously be punished, it is important to look out for language that marginalizes people more subtly. For example, some children have taken to using the phrase “I’m so triggered” as a joke, without taking account of the fact that others in their class may have traumatic experiences in their past. If you notice a student using this kind of language, let them know the ways in which it could be harmful to others.
3. Plan accessible field trips
Remember to look after the needs of disabled students when planning field trips. For example, it may not be a good idea to plan a long hike if one of your students has an issue with their legs or a less visible condition such as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). To make sure everyone is accounted for, make sure that students fill out a health and safety form before going on the trip.
4. Don’t be didactic about gender
Try not to promote gender conformity in the classroom. If a young male student wants to play with a dolls house, let them. Encouraging children to break away from traditional gender roles is a great way to build a more inclusive world.
5. Make sure that you reprimand students consistently
Whilst it is important to note that a certain child may be acting out due to the pressures they face in the outside world, it is important that you treat all students equally. This means that they should face the same consequences for breaking a given rule.
6. Don’t allow students to shame each other
If a student mocks a classmate about an aspect of their identity such as the way they dress or their accent, let the student know that they are in the wrong and give them a warning.
7. Be careful about your own language
It can be easy to make assumptions about your students’ home lives, and you may find yourself frequently referring to ‘mom and dad’ or ‘grandma and grandpa’. This can be alienating for kids living in foster care or under the guardianship of other relatives. You may also teach kids with LGBTQ+ parents that do not conform to the nuclear family structure.
8. Encourage the creation of community spaces
Creating spaces for students from marginalized communities is a great way for them to seek support from others that will understand their life experiences. As a teacher, you could even encourage pride events within the school and help students with fundraising.
9. Take part in diversity training
You may be resistant to taking on extra work, but diversity training can improve your experience as a teacher and make your job feel more rewarding. To read up on the many benefits of diversity training, check out this article.
10. Allow students to share their experiences
Invite students to talk about their individual experiences during ‘sharing lessons’. Let students know that the lessons are open forums to discuss issues surrounding identity and marginalization.
11. Be careful about pronouns
Avoid asking students to share their preferred pronouns during icebreaker sessions at the start of the semester. This could pressure closeted students to out or misgender themselves. Instead, offer your own pronouns as a subtle invitation for others to share theirs if they feel comfortable.
12. Be wary of sexist dress codes
School dress codes often penalize female students with shaming language. For example, short skirts may be deemed too “distracting” for male staff or students. Fight for equality by insisting that school administrators back up dress code choices with non-sexist language.
13. Teach beyond Christianity
If you teach religion, try to spend an equal amount of time focusing on each religion. Many schools spend a disproportionate amount of the school year teaching about Christianity.
14. Try to avoid celebrations that may exclude certain students
Try to avoid holding class celebrations that may exclude certain students. For example, if there are Muslim students in the class, avoid holding a celebration involving food during Ramadan, as they may be fasting.
15. Push for gender-neutral bathrooms
Trans or non-binary students could hugely benefit from there being a few gender-neutral bathrooms around the school. If your school only has binary bathrooms, try to encourage the school to change the system.