As our country grows ever more diverse, so do our schools. Classrooms are filled with students of various backgrounds, and it is essential that those of us in the field of education acknowledge these many backgrounds in our buildings. Lessons should be inclusive of many backgrounds and cultures. Teachers need to grow with this trend, and reach out to students. Learning cannot happen if students feel disconnected from the material being taught. Therefore, It is so important for schools to recognize this growth, and to be sure that schools reflect this increasing change in our population.
What does a successfully inclusive school look like? Below are answers to some very vital and common questions centered on this topic.
Why is diversity such a key element in schools?
With the rise in diversity in our country, students of various backgrounds are enrolled in schools. Schools, therefore, have a large influx of diversity among students. With such a wide array of personal histories, it is not appropriate for teachers to focus on only one set of circumstances in classrooms and lessons. For students to learn most effectively, they need to connect to the educational material.
How does diversity benefit students?
- Allows students to experience new things outside the use of a textbook
- Gives students the background needed to work successfully with people who are different from themselves
- Teaches respect, something today’s students need to value more
- Increases awareness of others and their heritages
- Boosts self-esteem
- Shows greater understanding of material presented in lessons
- Develops critical thinking skills
- Fosters positive leadership skills
What does a school that embraces diversity look like?
- Respectful and welcoming
- Responsive and proactive to issues or problems connected with having a diverse population
- Showcases pictures and projects of a diverse nature throughout the building, including students and their works
- Has programs in place that embrace and celebrate diverse backgrounds (culture, race, religion, gender, etc.)
- Curriculum utilizes many different heritages in the lessons
- Classrooms highlight the backgrounds of students
- Guest speakers are brought in to talk about and explore diversity with students
- Volunteerism is encouraged
- Tolerance and acceptance are promoted, if not required
- Students have an awareness of culture and heritage
- Faculty and administration are sensitive to heritage and background, and uphold values connected with them
- Parents and community are openly and regularly involved in the school
- Differences are celebrated
- Honors the celebrations of culture in families
- Students are asked to share backgrounds with others
- Classrooms are diverse and comfortable
- Schools, families, and communities work together to ensure the successful learning of students
What can teachers do to support and encourage the diversity in classrooms today?
- Encourage students to share.
- Ensure that curriculum is diverse – authors, leaders, inventors, scientists, poets, mathematicians, musicians, artists, etc. Be sure to showcase many different kinds of backgrounds of important people.
- Decorate your room with diversity in mind. Places, people, quotes, pictures, etc. Be inclusive.
- Share your own background with students.
- Incorporate activities within your lessons that allow students to interact with one another.
- Be respectful and welcoming, and expect students to follow suit. Make it a rule. Everyone is accepted.
- Support politeness and courtesy.
- Talk to parents and community. Ask for their interactions and input, either with student works or through classroom interactions.
- Arrange for times for students to experience other cultural activities.
- Plan for small group projects.
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