Let’s do a little experiment.
Close your eyes and think about your earliest memory of being in a classroom. Maybe you can remember all the way back to your kindergarten class? Maybe you remember your fourth grade classroom? While your eyes are closed, can you recall the feeling you had in that classroom? Did you smile? Did you roll your eyes?
Now think back to the walls. The images on the walls. Was there a theme? Apples and school buses? Were there any faces? Did they reflect you in anyway? In a perfect world, you (and everyone else) would smile at the memories because you do remember your classrooms as ones that were diverse and culturally inclusive.
Or maybe you didn’t have that experience and you know first hand the affect it had on you as a student.
That’s not something we should have to worry about in 2018. Right? Wrong.
So, if you are a teacher or even a parent, here is a checklist to create (or encourage) a diverse and inclusive classroom for any and all students.
- Are the characters or themes diverse? Do all of the images in your class reflect your/the students? If the class has 20 students and 90% of them have blue hair and the remaining 10% have red hair, did you/the teacher ignore the 10 percent?
- Sit in your/the students’ seats. Literally, sit in them. What do you see from their vantage point? Are there any subliminal messages being sent through images? Do they alienate another group or even worse, ignore them altogether?
- Are you/the teacher considering the demographic of the students? Are you/the teacher exposing the students to diversity in the text they read? If you’re a kindergarten teacher, do all of the protagonists/antagonists look the same?
I’ve created a version of this checklist that you can complete and share on your Insta Stories. Download these images and then use them accordingly.
Depending on how you’ve answered these questions, you may need to make changes today or suggest it to your child’s educator. Students are smarter than ever and children naturally soak in subliminal messages from the moment they open their eyes in the morning. Go out of your way to allow diversity to be visible and celebrated in your classrooms or the classrooms of your children.
It matters. Although it’s uncomfortable to address diversity sometimes, it’s even worse to ignore it. No one is saying that you or your child’s educator needs to listen to urban music or do the latest hip-hop dance to let students know they are welcome.But it is an educator’s job to be their first line of defense when it comes to how people treat each other. A parent can spend their whole lives encouraging their child to be comfortable in their own skin. To be proud.
But an educator needs to do their part to reinforce those efforts. Even if a kid in the classroom never says a word about how they feel, the things they see in the class can easily influence how they see themselves.
Feel free to share the link to this post to fellow teachers or parents. Especially in elementary schools. By the time students make it to junior high school, it may be too late to undo the damage that was done by passively acknowledging differences and barely celebrating them.
If you’re a parent, go into your child’s classroom and do a little “look-see” of the images in the classroom. Are any of them offensive? Is your child being celebrated in anyway? If so, say something. You are your child’s strongest advocate. I will do a post on how to approach such a sensitive subject in future.
One more thing, a student who is the “minority” in your class shouldn’t have to be the “spokesperson” for their culture. That’s unfair and it’s ignorant. I know that’s harsh to read but it’s time out for dancing around the truth. It’s not any child’s job to teach an educator about them. It’s an educator’s job to learn and do the research on their own.