If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole
gamut of human potentialities, and so we weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each
diverse human gift will find a fitting place.
– Margaret Mead
There’s a lot that we can do to make our classrooms more welcoming, but it is also important that schools as institutions are inclusive at the “macro” level. You might use some of the suggestions below in your classroom, but many of the suggestions are meant to be used at the institutional level. Try getting some teachers together to consider some of these ideas. The further step is to move a specific agenda forward with the school administration.
In this article you’ll find some activities and ponderings to help inspire you on the journey to make your school climate more inclusive. It takes committed teachers to encourage and shape our schools to be welcoming and open.
Who feels welcome at your school ? : A Classroom Activity
This activity invites your students to imagine a future of equality.
- Assign students to go on a “scavenger hunt” around the school (if possible, during class time; otherwise, as they change classes and before and after school. Ask them to find images, words, and references to a variety of groups (male and female; a
variety of races and ethnicities; students of different socio-economic classes, physical and intellectual abilities, and language groups, and so on)..
- For ease of record keeping, you may want to create a chart that lists different groups, locations, type of media, and a way to track how often different groups are represented. When students return with their records, share them with the classroom.
- Discuss who gets represented and why and what that might say about the culture of the school..
- Then facilitate a discussion with students about what else they might examine in the school to see who is welcomed at the school. They could include such measures as the school budget, the calendar, how the building gets used, what visitors/speakers are invited to the school, the books assigned in English, what plays are performed, who is elected to various positions in the school, how music is chosen for dances, and so on. Are all represented? Who is left out?.
- Finally, lead a discussion about what it might be like never to see “yourself” (in gender, race, class, and so forth) represented at school. What message does that send? Which students are more likely to succeed?.
- Action: Collate all the data the class collected, submit a report to the school administration, and then make suggestions about how to make the school more inclusive and welcoming.
Further Thoughts :
- Take a look around your school: what images are there around the school in posters and pictures, fliers for activities, in the library, and so on? Do these images represent the student body?.
- Talk to one of your administrators about the position of the school on diversity and inclusion. Ask about how inclusion and diversity are represented in the budget, calendar, and staffing..
- Take some time to write down what you think the percentages of different groups in the school are; include lots of types of groups—race, class, sexual orientation, nationality/immigrant status, and so on. Once you write down those percentages, ask your administration for the official statistics of the school. Compare the two lists—if you were off-base in some categories, why do you think that is? How might you become more aware of the groups you overlooked?