The classroom is a crucial space for children and young adults to learn vital lessons in diversity, inclusion, and belonging. While classroom lectures can educate students on the benefits that come from exposure to people of different backgrounds, races, and religions, sometimes the simplest interactions—such as looking around and seeing a room of diverse peers smiling back—can best reinforce the value of diversity.
To help nurture understanding and awareness around diversity and celebrate people of all backgrounds and groups, here are four tips for teachers to further welcome and foster diversity, inclusion, and belonging in the classroom.
1. Get to Know Your Students and Celebrate their Cultures and Backgrounds
Your students—particularly the youngest ones—will learn to be inquisitive and welcoming from the social cues they observe from trusted adults, especially from you as their teacher. Get to know every student in your classroom. Ask sensitively appropriate questions about their family, background, and culture. Hold these conversations one-on-one, during small group work, and while discussing relevant topics to help show all your students how similar yet wonderfully unique they are. Then celebrate those similarities and differences in the classroom.
2. Incorporate Stories of Diversity into Your Curriculum
Every subject can recognize and celebrate the contributions of leaders of different backgrounds, races, religions, and cultures. For example, ask your students to read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and teach them about Marie Curie’s contributions to science. Incorporate discussions on the evolution of gay rights in your American history lessons. Celebrate David Hockney, Robert Rauschenberg, and others’ artistic contributions. Praise the athletic achievements of Andraya Yearwood and Chris Mosier and other transgender athletes. By normalizing race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, and other identity factors as part of your curriculum, you can help influence the minds of future leaders that can be unmarked by the stigma that has followed certain groups of people for generations.
3. Encourage Students to Learn and Share Information on their Family Heritage
A fun and engaging way to encourage students to understand their heritage and culture more deeply is through self-guided research. Ask students to research an element of their culture or heritage and share their findings to their classroom using presentation techniques or styles that they feel will help them best express what they have learned.
4. Speak Up When You Observe Inequality
It is only by identifying and addressing cases of inequality that we can ever hope to achieve an equitable society. As a leader in your school and an influencer of young minds, you can accomplish significant understanding and positive change by speaking up when you observe inequality in your classroom, school, or community. Such conversations may be challenging, but they are crucial to creating a safe space where every student feels seen, heard, and appreciated.
Diversity in the classroom fosters empathy, understanding, and cultural competence. It is our obligation to encourage future generations to appreciate—rather than question—what makes us different and unique.