As much as we’d like to think our classrooms are all-inclusive, that isn’t always the case. Even teachers that mean well can accidentally say or do something that makes someone feel uncomfortable or unsafe in class. Since everyone has a right to be seen and feel safe at school, consider these tips for creating a more inclusive classroom environment.
Acknowledge Your Own Biases
Yes, you do have biases about certain groups of people, and yes, they will affect your behavior. You might not recognize that or want to admit it, but it is true. While there is little that you can do about something that you’ve been implicitly or explicitly taught from childhood, you can acknowledge that you have certain biases and that they will have an effect on how you interact with your students. When this does happen, take a step back and ask yourself why it’s happening and if you might react differently if you were talking to a student who was more like you. Everyone has biases they need to overcome, and this could be a good opportunity to overcome your own.
Treat All Students With Respect
Sometimes the best thing you can do is just treat all of your students with the same level of respect. Learn and use their names, understand that there will be cultural differences between them, and hold them all to the same standards. Students everywhere appreciate this more than people know.
Accommodate Students with Disabilities
All schools are required to provide reasonable accommodations for their students, so make sure that everything in your classroom is accessible to everyone. These accommodations should be readily available, and other students should be taught to show respect when they are necessary.
Don’t Ask a Student to Represent an Entire Group
Finally, don’t expect a minority student to represent an entire group of people. There are plenty of ways to show respect for your students and teach them about cultural differences, but turning one of your students into a token representation of an entire group is not the way to do it. All that does is isolate that student and teach the other kids that they are some kind of “other.” Your heart might be in the right place, but please don’t do this.