How to Support Diversity and Inclusion in your Classroom

In our classrooms today, the power of diversity and inclusion cannot be overstated. As classrooms become increasingly diverse- it is essential for educators to create an environment where every student feels valued and respected. Embracing diversity and fostering inclusivity are not just about meeting and teaching to state standards; they are about enriching the learning experience for all students, promoting empathy, and preparing young minds for the real world. 

Meeting the diverse behavioral and learning needs of all students is a fundamental aspect of creating an inclusive classroom. Every student brings a unique set of experiences, abilities, and challenges to the classroom. It is crucial for teachers to recognize and address these individual differences to ensure that every student has the opportunity to thrive. This includes implementing strategies that accommodate various learning styles, cultural backgrounds, and behavioral needs- but you and I both know that this is easier said than done. 

The Importance of a Diverse Classroom Approach

Whether you are talking about supporting your classroom of diverse students academically, behaviorally, or culturally- this can seem overwhelming at first. However, I promise that if you take the time to create a inclusive classroom, you will spend less time on behaviors in the long run. Let’s break down a few ways of why having a diverse approach can be so helpful.

Meeting Individual Needs

Varied Behavioral Needs

You and I both know there is almost guaranteed to be diverse behavioral needs in your classroom. Why? Because kids are individuals. Some may simply need an intervention that allows them to take a break, others may require a contract and some more may need a token economy board. 

Another way to easily meet these needs is to include interests of your students. Doing a math problem? Make it about race cars or your students favorite basketball team. Some students just get excited when their name is added to a problem- I have seen this work like magic that even the teacher couldn’t believe it!

When you meet these needs individually, it again supports the diverse culture in your room. Now, as I say this- I also need to say that tier one (or classroom wide) behavior supports should still be your go to. They give you the most bang for your buck and will save you time!

Cultural Sensitivity

Being culturally sensitive is so important to creating an inclusive environment. This means having books that represent different cultures, celebrating and talking about a variety of holidays, having families in to show you value their culture. If this makes you uncomfortable, the best thing to do is ask! It is better to learn about your students and have discussions instead of ignoring this.

Once you have cultural sensitive in your classroom, you will be able to have better discussions as well. Your students will feel like they can take more risks, be vulnerable and know that they will not be ridiculed for it. This will ultimately have better outcomes for academics as well. 

Behavior as the Foundation

Understanding Diverse Behaviors

Behaviors are NOT easy. We like to think that as teachers, it is just part of our DNA. However, we know that is not the case. There are kids that get under our skin, there are behaviors we are hoping we are doing the right thing, and there are some we have no idea how to change. Fear not, I am here to give you all of that support. 

Here are a few blog posts you can read to learn more about understanding behaviors:

Positive Behavior Support

Although it may seem counterintuitive at times, using positive behavior supports can change behavior for the long run, and allows you to do it from a supportive stance as opposed to a negative one. This will create an environment that is welcoming, does not focus on punishments or negative consequences and is where students actually want to be. By focusing on the positives you will be even more inclusive because you will not be targeting or alienating students for their behaviors (even if not done purposely, this does happen with punitive approaches).

 One great tool for doing this with your entire class is to use a classroom wide reinforcement system. 

This reinforcement system should focus on one or two target behaviors that you have taught explicitly. Then, you set a goal and a reward for the students to earn. Every time you catch the students being good, you can give them a token. Check out the image below to help you visualize what this may look like.

Want one of these for your own? Click here.

Transforming Mindsets with Diversity and Inclusion Quotes

Change Your Mindset

We tell our students to have a growth mindset, but often this can be a struggle for us as teachers! Being open to changing the way you approach your classroom, or even just learning about it is a small but important first step.  If you need some motivation here are some diversity quotes to support you.

Quotes

  •  “Diversity is not about how we differ. Diversity is about embracing one another’s uniqueness.” – Ola Joseph
  • “Stop being afraid of what could go wrong and start being excited about what could go right” – Unknown
  • “There is a difference between not knowing, and not knowing yet.”  Sheila Tobias
  • “Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” – Verna Myers
  • “Equality is treating everyone the same. But equity is taking differences into account, so everyone has a chance to succeed.” -Jodi Picoult
  • We are all different, which is great because we are all unique. Without diversity, life would be very boring. – Catherine Pulsifer
  • We must not only learn to tolerate our differences. We must welcome them as the richness and diversity which can lead to true intelligence.” – Albert Einstein
  • Innovation comes from a collaborative and diverse team” -Sundar Pichai
  • “The fundamental law of human beings is interdependence. A person is a person through other persons.” Desmond Tutu

Foster a Sense of Belonging

Think about your own school, do you feel as though it is a family? That people truly care about you and want you to succeed? Or you feel as though you are just a worker bee, coming in following the procedures without anyone really caring if you come or go? When we are in a place where we feel valued and that we belong- we are going to try harder, show up more, and just enjoy life more. The same goes for our students.

This can be done through a variety of ways. A great way is by embedding some SEL strategies into your classroom. You can do this by simple things such as greeting your students by name as they arrive, practicing and building social skills, holding a morning meeting, and holding a closing circle to recap the day. If you want to learn more about some of these tips, read more on this blog. 

By fostering a sense of belonging, you a meeting a basic characteristic of human society that is essential for happiness. This will also allow a diverse mix of voices to be heard within your classroom & allow students to learn from one another.

Need some quotes for motivation? Read these below:

Quotes

  • “Unity in diversity is the highest possible attainment of a civilization, a testimony to the most noble possibilities of the human race.” – Michael Novak
  • Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilization” – Mahatma Gandhi
  • Inclusion is not a matter of political correctness. It is the key to growth.” – Jesse Jackson
  • Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.” – Malcolm Forbes
  • “In an inclusive world, each of us should feel empowered to declare and explore our identities openly without fear of being ostracized for it” -Rohit Bhargava
  • “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” -Audre Lorde
  • “Equality is leaving the door open for anyone who has the means to approach it; equity is ensuring there is a pathway to that door for those who need it.” Caroline Belden

Reflect and Adapt

Some of the best work we can do is on ourselves. How do we do that? We can continuously reflect on our practices and make adjustments as needed. This is not an easy task, because it requires us to look within ourselves at things we want to change. Maybe we could have tweaked how we said something or changed up the lesson. Maybe we realize that even though we love Christmas- having a Christmas tree in the classroom is not very inclusive. This can be a difficult change for some. But if we take the time to do that hard work and reflect, we can make changes for the better and know that what we are doing is going to make a more inclusive classroom.

Many times there is unconscious bias that makes its way into our teaching. We have to make sure that we are reflecting on our own actions and thought to be sure that we are using inclusive language, accepting diverse ideas, and not brining our own preconceived notions into our teaching.

Many times the reasons our classrooms are not inclusive is not because we are intentionally doing so, but rather a lack of knowledge and understanding. No one is intentionally doing the wrong thing. That is why reflecting and adapting are so important.  You can do reflective journaling, listen to different perspectives of people with diverse backgrounds, and even ask others how they have adapted their classrooms. I love talking with my ESL teachers, as they have a deeper understanding about the cultures in my school and can help me learn to be more inclusive.

To give you some motivation through this hard step, here are some quotes for you.

Quotes

  • “Diversity and inclusion, which are the real grounds for creativity, must remain at the center of what we do.” – Marco Bizzarri
  • “We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” – Max De Pree
  • “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.” – Stephen R. Covey
  • When we listen and celebrate what is common and different, we become a wiser, more inclusive, and better organization.” – Pat Wadors 
  • “We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.” -Maya Angelou

Creating a truly inclusive classroom requires a deliberate and thoughtful approach to diversity and behavior management. For our world to be more inclusive, our students need to be lead by inclusive leaders like you! The fact that you are out searching, reading, and learning on your own should show you that great things are happening in your classroom and will continue to happen if you follow these tips. You are on your way to helping your students be accepting, nursing human beings. Just imagine these students as they grow up and how they are going to create an inclusive society!

By meeting the varied needs of each student and fostering an environment where everyone feels valued and respected, we can ensure that every child has the opportunity to thrive. 

These quotes not only remind us of the importance of inclusivity but also provide motivation and guidance in our efforts to create a welcoming and equitable classroom. By embracing these values, educators can foster a culture of empathy, respect, and understanding, ultimately leading to a more enriching educational experience for all students.

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