How to Create Inclusive Classrooms
Teachers with today’s students are a wide mix. From the most traditional of institutions, such as the school house system, to Internet entrepreneurial skills, many of our students do not fit neatly into any one set of classroom experiences.
This is a great thing. Teachers everywhere should be creating more inclusive classrooms. By embracing diverse differences, not only do they create greater diversity in their classrooms, but they also teach students to face diversity head on, making them stronger and more creative thinkers.
What teachers can do
For teachers to create a more inclusive classroom, here are a few tips:
Get to know LGBTQ students outside of school. Do not limit LGBTQ students to being silent statistics in the classroom. Let students talk about their personal lives and how that affects them at school. According to the American Association of School Administrators, LGBTQ students feel safer by having a greater percentage of staff who are able to relate to their experiences. Teachers should try to establish friendships with these students outside of the classroom, where they can share their experiences. Ask about the stereotypes LGBTQ people deal with, and why they are applied to them.
List out ways LGBTQ people are used at school. Then, find commonalities. You may be surprised to find that not all stereotypes of LGBTQ people are derived from bad experiences at school. The following questions may help the teacher learn more about stereotypes: “Were there things about your life that made you feel as though people were holding back on their ability to have empathy?” and “Are there ways you often experience inequity?” If you find that LGBT students are stereotyped often, try to reach out to that student and ask if there is anything you can do to help.
Facilitate community. When they are around your classroom, be inclusive of all students. By their presence, your students expand their understanding of diversity, as well as learn new, respectful ways to interact with everyone in their class.
Be reflective of your school. Assess your community to make sure your children are learning from teachers and other adults who are accepting of all of their differences. Ask about classroom discussions that involve content relating to LGBTQ people, or the issues surrounding the next gender assignment process at school. Maintain a strong school climate. Bring your LGBTQ student community together every week with a special event, or have an LGBTQ class. Bring in those who don’t normally find comfort and help them learn. Celebrate diversity. Ask “What inspires you?” and then, “What are you doing to celebrate diversity?” Encourage your student to have role models who are LGBTQ. This can help them build confidence in themselves, and build others’ confidence in them.
Prioritize LGBTQ students’ interests and needs. Encourage LGBTQ students to participate in the diversity and community school programs offered at your school. They will find greater respect for their identities and for their uniqueness. You might also suggest to your principal or assistant principal that they promote LGBTQ diversity and inclusion as well.
Build partnerships with local LGBTQ youth organizations. As a teacher, you should be in the best position to make sure LGBTQ students are engaged in extracurricular programs, such as summer camps, conferences, or clubs. Consider inviting local LGBTQ teens to share their stories and give advice about social issues relating to education, or for students to just visit your class. Make it easy for students to ask their friends about LGBTQ topics. You will be surprised to see their reactions when they have real, practical questions for their peers.
Think of ways to foster more respectful approaches to LGBT issues, like using a different word or phrase for LGBTQ names. You can also support LGBTQ students in ensuring they are included in everything from other sports to pledge drives for diversity and civil rights. Don’t segregate LGBTQ students from their friends and their class, all the time. Instead, encourage students to talk about their lives and how they feel about who they are, how they make mistakes or think about using the pronoun they want to use. This not only provides more comfortable peer learning, but it also helps students feel supported by their friends.
You don’t have to manage stereotypes, which is just a part of everyday life. Ultimately, you should just have an open mind and be supportive of your students. Make your classroom a welcoming environment for all students, and through this, teach your students to find the strengths in their diversity.