Why does your classroom need more diversity?
Because the world we live in is changing.
Do you remember when you were in school learning how to be a teacher? Do you remember taking classes on diversity and talking about how to be inclusive to everyone in your classroom?
Much of the talks about diversity use to mostly be about race. Now when we talk about diversity, the discussion causes us to dig a little deeper. We’re now talking about race, socioeconomic status, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disabilities, learning styles and culture.
Add diversity to your classroom
Providing your students with a diverse classroom helps them learn better when they see mirrors of themselves, and when they know they have a teacher who understands them from the inside out.
Many school are not equipped to meet the needs of their diverse student bodies, but that doesn’t mean that your classroom has to follow the status quo.
Having a poster or two with someone non-white on the classroom wall isn’t enough. Diversity simply means recognizing the positive differences in the world around you.
Here are a few simple ways to add more diversity to your classroom:
Invite a variety of guests to your classroom
Most schools have a few school-wide program a year that allow visitors to come to the school and visit various classrooms (like career day). Some of those programs allow you to choose your guests, and others are chosen for you.
Anytime you have the opportunity to choose your own guests, think outside of your personal circle. Do you know that there are people who want to volunteer their time and talents, but just need the opportunity?
Try connecting with local fraternities, sororities, business owners and organizations to find a diverse group of people to use.
This also shows your students that people who don’t look like them are still very similar to them. Students tend to gravitate to what is familiar. Inviting a variety of guests to your classroom widens their scope of familiarity.
This small exposure also helps to reduce fears about differences that may have been taught covertly or overtly at home.
Stock your classroom library with diverse books
Do you realize that some students have never been taught by a teacher of color? Or seen someone who looked like themselves represented in print?
The education system is guilty of teaching about the same minority role models repeatedly. Use your classroom library as an opportunity to teach your students about prominent leaders, inventors and world changers in history that may not be as well known.
When your students can read about minorities who have made impactful contributions in the world, they will be more likely to respect and value people with cultural differences.
You can find our huge collection of books from around the world here.
Have a system to address bullying
Teaching your students to value differences and to be kind to those around them is the first step in fostering a good relationship between teacher and students. When students feel safe, they are prepared to learn.
Many students who experience bullying are afraid to speak up for fear of repercussions. If you create a positive atmosphere for learning, your students will learn to take care of each other, and they will come to understand that bullying is not tolerated.
It is also important for you to teach your students what kinds of topics are off limits for teasing. Some students who are not use to being around others who are different from them tease because they don’t understand the value in differences.
Teachers have a unique opportunity to teach their students how to be kind and respectful through daily everyday expectations and practices.
Give students an opportunity to learn about each other
Part of fostering a positive learning environment is teaching your students to value each other’s differences so that they can grow and learn together.
As adults, your students will enter the world of work and will encounter others who learn and perform much differently than them.
Your job is to prepare them for the world of work through teaching and modeling. Remind your students that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Remind them of how diversity helps brings new ideas to the table. Show them how diverse ideas bring about new inventions and discoveries.
Create a visually appealing diverse classroom
Having a multicultural classroom is not just the responsibility of the foreign language and social studies teachers.
Think about a time when you entered a place that was unfamiliar, like a conference or a meeting. Did you not find comfort in seeing someone familiar? Or noticing something in the room that made you feel at ease?
Our students will spend most of their days with us, so it is important to create a classroom that fosters a feeling of safety and acceptance.
Use your classroom walls to display diversity. Do you have pictures of your travels to foreign countries? Do you have quotes from various world-changers of all ethnicities displayed?
If you have a large population of ESL (English as a second language) students, do you have anything in your room in their language?