Creating a Community Where Differences are Valued

Families, neighborhoods and schools are becoming increasingly diverse. This offers students an opportunity to practice working, learning and playing with people who look, speak and believe differently than they do. These are skills that will be helpful as they become older and work in the global market place. You, as a teacher, are being asked to stretch and build your own skills so that you can embrace the diversity of your students and to encourage an inclusive mindset in your classroom and school.  Here are some ways to begin.

  • Small Group Work. When possible, form collaborative groups that include members who are diverse – in ethnicity, ability, gender, etc.  This helps students get to know others who are different than themselves, and see the unique contributions and value that each individual contributes to the project.
  • Trust and inclusion. When students feel disrespected or distanced from peers or teachers, they feel less belonging. This feeling is exacerbated if they don’t see themselves reflected in some way in the classroom. Their teacher may not look or sound like them, the books and subject matter may not connect to the lives they experience at home. Part of your job is to name and counter stereotypes when they show up. Racist, sexist or language that diminishes any group of people has no place in the classroom. Addressing your students in a respectful, caring way sets a tone for the learning community.
  • Involve students in activities and discussions about similarities and differences regularly. Use literature. Invite elders from your community to share. Celebrate differences by encouraging students to share their culture, identity, food and traditions.
  • Include stories, movies, and discussions about role models who might be lesser known, and are examples of strong character or achievement. If you teach history include contributions of peoples or groups that are often left out of traditional text books.