As most of the nation gears up to send their children back into the physical classroom (hopefully) after months of virtual learning, parents will place a large part of their child’s development directly back into the hands of their school system.
Schools have a tremendous impact in the lives of our children. One way to help ensure that we are raising good humans is to work in tandem with our schools to help foster inclusivity – the practice or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized.
Every parent wants their child to feel included, accepted, to make friends and to have an overall positive experience and year in the classroom.
Here are several ways that schools can work together with parents, and their communities to help foster inclusivity.
Every day, teachers are actively engaged in the classroom and strive to avoid blank stares and bored faces. Learning, however, is different for each child. One way to aide students to feel included in their school community is by placing emphasis on differentiated learning.
Every child learns differently, therefore teachers may find most success in tailoring lessons to fit the need of each individual child. For example, some children respond better with a hands-on lessons where they are active participants in the learning process. On the other and, other students learn better when they incorporate movement into their school day or rely on visuals to support the learning process.
There are many ways to encourage all students to interact in the classroom using differentiated learning techniques. Teachers can ask open ended questions, show children how to wait their turn to answer, respect everyone’s unique responses, use positive praise and listen with an open ear to each response.
Increase Cultural Competency
The National Education Association describes cultural competence as “having an awareness of one’s own cultural identity and views about difference, and the ability to learn and build on the varying cultural and community norms of students and their families.” To help schools foster inclusivity, they can work toward a better understanding of the different viewpoints and opinions of everyone in the classroom. Teachers must recognize their own individual biases and stereotypes and students should learn to distinguish stereotypes from cultural facts.
When schools embrace diversity, this too, adds to a better understanding of cultural competence. Schools that infuse a culturally responsive curriculum also “validate and reflect the diversity, identities, and experiences of all students.”
Today, many private and public schools and universities across the country are undergoing trainings to increase racial identity awareness amongst their faculty and staff such as SEED - Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity.
Another way to help foster inclusivity in schools is to keep all lines of communication open. This includes the administration staying in touch with parents, families, alumni, and the school’s board of directors.
Schools may also implement a variety of different strategies to communicate with their community. This might mean being flexible with working parents to communicate during off-hours or working with a translator if a parent does not speak English. Helping to foster an inclusive school community might also mean sending out weekly newsletters or updating a news page on your school’s website which highlights the school’s good work. Marketing and communication offices are always looking for interesting news items about their communities.
Positive Role Models
Another way to make a more inclusive classroom and school, is to highlight positive role models. Internally, this could mean talking to students about an example of respect or kindness that a faculty, staff, or student exhibit. It could also mean inviting a guest speaker or reader into the classroom to talk about their career paths. Whatever the case, helping children to see an adult in front of them who is a positive role model adds to feeling more accepted and included at school.
Focus on Social and Emotional Lessons (SEL)
Focusing on the social and emotional well-being of children will help students foster a more accepting nature of others from a young age. Schools can emphasize the importance of and discuss key character development qualities including empathy, kindness, respect, and perseverance. Many of these character traits might seem like obvious qualities that children should automatically possess, but they are learned. If a child never learns about kindness or sees adults who possess resilience, for example, they are less likely to develop these qualities into adulthood.
Fostering inclusivity might not always be easy. But, by following these steps outlined above schools can take preemptive steps to hinder children from feeling excluded. These steps will ultimately lead children down the right path towards becoming positive, contributing and kind members of society.