By Aimee Laurence
More and more schools, colleges, and universities are committing themselves to promoting inclusion and diversity issue awareness to both students and faculty members. Regardless of the subject of the course being taught, there are certain things that teachers can do to the classroom and their approach to be more welcoming and inclusive to their students. Here is a basic guide to start taking necessary steps to creating an inclusive classroom and teaching diversity.
- What is diversity?
Diversity means a lot of different things. In the classroom, diversity means understanding that each student has a different experience, ideas and strengths, and respecting and encouraging those viewpoints. The differences stem from dimensions of sexual orientation, gender, race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, socio-economic status, age, ability, or political beliefs. Diversity is understanding these differences, exploring them with respect, and incorporating them into the classroom to have a richer learning experience.
- Why does it matter in the classroom?
Students go to school with varied experiences and backgrounds. Educators and teachers are responsible for making sure that students can work in diverse workplaces and collaborate and respect others that have different and new perspectives. When these are incorporated in teaching and students are given different ways to look at a discipline, they become better prepared for a diverse workforce.
- What is inclusivity in the classroom?
Having Inclusive classrooms means that the teachers have an understanding of the diversity of their students and work with them to have a collaborative, safe, and respectful learning experience. Course content is shared in many different ways and allows students to share their experiences if willing.
- How to bring diversity to the classroom?
There are many ways to bring diversity to the classroom depending on what you want your students to get from it. As per Helen Norrey, an educator at Let’s Go And Learn and SimpleGrad, bringing diversity to the classroom “means bringing different perspectives to the curriculum and sharing with students the differences in cultures and background in a safe environment without judgment, and inviting them to share in their experiences if comfortable.”
Some advice to teachers who are seeking to teach diversity in an inclusive manner would be to observe, investigate, and most of all, not make assumptions. Some teachers unintentionally have societal and cultural biases and they are unaware of the microaggressions created in the classroom. It’s very important to be aware. Teachers have to observe different groups of people and make investigations instead of assuming certain things. They have to be aware and respond to diverse cultures in class instead of pretending cultural blindness.
It’s also important for teachers to reflect on themselves and avoid perpetuating stereotypes. For example, students have shared experiences where they have had their intellectual capabilities questioned or their ability to attend elite schools simply based on skin color. Monica Islington, a teacher at My Writing Way and Via Writing, explains to others that “teachers must be constantly on aware of their thoughts and reflect on them, in addition to their feelings and their actions in the classroom, particularly when they’re handling a situation involving children from different backgrounds. This helps to prevent the reinforcement of stereotypes.”
In truth, everyone is human and brings their own individual cultural biases to the table. That’s why teachers have to reflect on their thoughts and feelings about students from other backgrounds, and not stop at just saying they respect everyone. For example, even if a student comes from a poorer school, a teacher must consider whether they still have high expectations.
They should also reflect on this during parent-teacher days, and have to be aware of how they phrase their questions to the parents which will be sensitive to gaps between home culture and school and respect those gaps. For example, if a teacher is speaking to a parent from a poor background comparatively speaking, they should not be assuming that they have access to the same resources.
At the end of the day, teachers should be treating students not only as individuals but also as part of different cultural groups with many differences to be celebrated. The differences that make each person unique must be recognized and observed.
Aimee Laurence, a tutor at UKWritings.com and Essayroo Review, writes many articles on education and the modern world. She is interested in modernizing the curriculum in schools to be more in line with current beliefs and social developments. Aimee also works as a freelance editor on Assignment Writer.