Taking the time to teach children about diversity and inclusion is essential. Children naturally grow to see that the world is made up of people who have different backgrounds including gender identity, religion, race, ethnicities, languages, and sexualities. Teaching children to love and accept those who are different encourages empathy and global citizenship from a young age and reduces tendencies towards prejudice and closed mindsets.
Here are 5 ways to celebrate and foster diversity and inclusion in the classroom:
1. Get to know your students and their stories
Every student you teach will come from different backgrounds — make sure to honor those by getting to know them and their families. Building relationships with students grounded in intentional communication and genuine curiosity can help students embrace the differences that make them special and give teachers the ability to be cognizant of where diversity and inclusion should be nurtured.
One of the best ways to foster a diverse and inclusive spirit at your business or in the classroom is to make an empathetic effort to understand the individuals you teach. By taking time to understand your students’ strengths, weaknesses, personality traits, and learning styles, you create a space where everyone feels welcome and understood. Gathering this knowledge will also help you prevent and deal with bullying in the classroom. You can start by having parents fill out custom forms in which they answer questions about their child like preferred name, pronouns, gender identity, and more.
2. Examine what teaching materials you use
What voices are shared in your classes? Who writes the books, lessons, and tools that you use to teach? Make sure that your curriculum represents a diverse and inclusive range of sources — ones that come from different cultures and perspectives. When telling your classroom a story, making sure that your students feel represented in books, movies, and images. According to Edutopia, “kids determine what they can be based on the examples around them.” Make sure that your classroom shows kids that they can grow up to be anything by sharing stories that they can relate to or see themselves in. You should also make an effort to bring in outside resources to help inform your curriculum.
3. Set clear expectations on how people should be treated
Part of supporting diversity in the classroom is creating a space for students and staff to feel open about their differences and how they might face prejudice. By communicating expectations on treating people with kindness and respect, you can create a classroom where attitudes that conflict with diversity and inclusion aren’t tolerated.
Setting clear expectations with children and teens in classrooms might manifest in addressing inequality and prejudice, rejecting stereotypes, and encouraging students to ask questions that encourage kids to think in alternative mindsets.
4. Meet diverse learning needs
Whether you teach extracurricular classes or in a standard classroom setting, meeting diverse learning needs is imperative to building an inclusive classroom. If you’re working in a traditional school setting, your students might have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). You can learn more about understanding those plans here.
If you’re teaching at a children’s activity business, parents might not share an IEP with you because you are not school staff. When taking in new children, you can ask thoughtful questions like if students have learning differences or if students need help with reading, writing or math. Consider connecting with parents and families to understand what support their child might need in your classroom to make sure every child has a great educational experience. A strong parent experience is a great indicator of success for your activities.
5. Don’t discourage questions
People learn by asking questions — kids included. Making sure that your classroom is a safe space for inquisitive minds is a great way to encourage kids to think in new ways and learn how to tolerate and love the differences of others around them.
As an educator, you can also ask questions. Encourage feedback from families, students, and staff around what diversity and inclusion efforts they would like to see. Ask yourself how you can grow as an educator and invest in making the world a more inclusive and compassionate place.
There are countless wonderful resources for teaching and celebrating diversity in a classroom. Here are some we’ve rounded up!
- Talking to Kids About Racism and Justice: a list for parents, caregivers & educators from the Oakland Public Library
- A Collection of Resources for Teaching Social Justice by Jennifer Gonzalez.
- Talking to Kids about Current Events and Conflicts from Lee & Low Books
- It’s Never Too Early to Talk About Race by Sarah Butler
- 60+ Resources for Talking to Kids About Racism byLorien Van Ness
If you have a resource you use as an educator, please share it with firstname.lastname@example.org.