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Inclusivity in the Classroom

What is an inclusive classroom?

An inclusive classroom is a classroom where students from all backgrounds, with and without learning differences, learn together. Inclusive classrooms are welcoming and support the diverse academic, social, emotional, and communication needs of all, allowing each student to see themselves and others as whole, authentic human beings who have the tools to connect with others and shape the reality in which they hope to live.

How to create an inclusive classroom

There are many things teachers can do to create an inclusive classroom. Here are 3 things I plan to do in my classroom:

1. Stock library shelves with diverse books

Make sure that students have access to books that reflect not only their lives, but also identities and perspectives different from their experiences. Here are some of my favorite diverse books I've read in my children's literature class:

The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family is a book written by Ibtihaj Muhammad and illustrated by Hatem Aly. It is about a young girl named Faizah who knows that the first day of school is going to be special because it's the start of a brand new year and, best of all, it's her older sister Asiya's first day of hijab--a hijab of beautiful blue fabric, like the ocean waving to the sky. However, not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of hurtful, confusing words, Faizah finds new ways to be strong.

What Happened to YOU? written by James Catchpole, and illustrated by Karen George, is the first-ever picture book addressing how a child with a disability might want to be spoken to. The little boy, Joe, loves playing pirates while dodging sharks and crocodiles. He would like to have other kids to play with, but they are only interested in what happened to his leg. This ground-breaking, funny story helps children understand what it might feel like to be seen as different.

We Are Water Protectors written by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade tells the story of a young Ojibwe girl and her people as they take on the "black snake" of an oil pipeline threatening their way of life. The black snake will destroy their land, spoil the water, poison the plants and animals, and destroy everything in its path. The girl is courageous and keeps the black snake away from her village’s water, so she and her people stand together for the water, the land, for the animals, and for nature.

These are just a few examples of books we could have in our classroom library!

2. Create a welcoming bulletin board

Everyone knows that a display is an important feature in every classroom! The most popular bulletin borders are those with apples, school buses, pencils, and crayons, but I personally think I will switch them out for a display that shows diverse people of different colors, sizes, and abilities. I want to make it welcoming by including different languages as well! These are small and simple things that can make a big difference in the classroom to help students feel like they belong.

3. Get to know your students

Knowing our students helps them understand that we, as their teachers, are aware of their strengths, weaknesses, and interests and can be trusted to do everything we can to help them be successful. When we make an effort to get to know our students, not only do we get to know them as learners, but also as people. We can get to know our students by talking to them. Have conversations with them on a regular basis. Talk to them about their learning, but talk to them about more than their learning. Talk to them about what interests them outside of the world of academics. Getting to know who students are as individuals can help teachers create an inclusive, respectful, and accepting classroom environment. This will not only help to keep students highly engaged in learning, but it will also provide a safe space for them when navigating tough times. This will serve to encourage them to open up and seek support when needed.

Having an inclusive classroom means creating a culture that is both respectful and collaborative for everyone in attendance. It will be our responsibility, as teachers, to make sure that happens in our classrooms. Check out this website to learn more about getting started with an inclusive classroom!

Want to learn more about teaching and the McKay School? Check out the McKay School Blog here. Have questions about becoming a teacher or joining one of the majors? Meet with one of our ambassadors here.

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