When it comes to teaching, we must provide all students with the opportunity to learn in an equitable environment. This means that each student has access to the same quality of education, regardless of race, socio-economic status, identity, or background. It must happen to set all students up to learn and thrive in classrooms. The suggestions in this blog are designed to help any teacher in any school.
1.Recognize that all students have different needs
If you are teaching students from various backgrounds and cultures, it is crucial to recognize that they have diverse needs. This means that each student has different strengths and weaknesses, so we need to teach them in ways that honor and embrace their identities.
For example, some students struggle with reading comprehension while others struggle with math. If this is the case, your lessons should provide support so all students can succeed. Once we look at each student as unique and has unique strengths and needs, we can truly start reaching all students.
2.Pay attention to your mindset and be aware of any biases you may have
It is essential to be aware of our mindset. Being aware of our mindset means that we need to pay attention to any biases or prejudices that might affect students. If you are not mindful of your own biases, you might accidentally give students unfair treatment.
For example, pay attention to who you are calling on more often than others to answer questions. Also, pay attention to who you are redirecting for behaviors. It is even important to be aware of who you stand by while you teach. If we let ourselves be truly reflective and observant, we might see that we are implicitly showing favoritism or unfairly treating students in the classroom. We can only make changes once we are aware of what we need to work on.
3.Create a community of trust where students from all backgrounds and identities feel safe to speak up
Building community in the classroom is vital. When students do not feel safe or included at school, it can affect their learning ability. We need students to trust us to share their thoughts and ideas with us. If they don't, we won't know what our students need. We should make sure that our students feel safe in the classroom so they can focus on learning.
Every student deserves to feel safe, welcome, and comfortable in the classroom. By doing this, you allow them to participate fully in their lessons and make good progress by providing this atmosphere.
One way you can build trust with your students is to hold a community circle before lessons begin. This way, all students will feel welcome and included in the classroom community. To learn more about circles, check out this article, Circle Up for a Better Climate and Culture.
4.Promote diversity in your curriculum, not just literature or social studies classes, but science and math too
Teaching acceptance and diversity doesn't have to have a time limit or be at a particular time of the year. Diversity must be incorporated into all class subjects. Students should see diverse people reflected in every subject. We must also intentionally include a wide variety of diverse perspectives and diverse people in our everyday curriculum to ensure students consistently see representation.
We must pay attention to what and who we put in the curriculum, how we teach it, and how students learn it.
According to the blog Culture and Equity in Science Classrooms, when students’ contributions do not conform to the expectations of the science curriculum, their ideas are more likely to be dismissed. Because Western science has defined the curriculum, it is more likely for students from non-dominant communities to be shut out. This is why we must stay aware of our implicit biases and intentionally keep them in check with our actions and in our planning.
When we think about math, we might not always think of the need to make a more equitable experience for students, or know how we can do so. We found some key research that points towards the need to make math more equitable. According to a study called The Importance of Equity in Mathematics Education, there are some key indicators of equity in math, including:
- Strong Support for all students
- High Expectations
- Collaborative Learning
- Accommodating Differences
- Open-ended teaching/learning strategies
5.Use visuals to promote diversity in the classroom
Representation does matter. In your classroom, try to include diversity in your visuals as well. If all of your visual examples are of people who look the same, some students might not feel valued, validated, or belonging.
For example, if you are teaching students about some of the first female scientists, include pictures that show women from a wide variety of backgrounds and cultures. This might seem simple, but it can make a difference to students. Check out this set of FREE Diversity and Inclusion Posters that help spread equitable messages and actions in your classroom.
6.Utilize student voice in curriculum planning and use different perspectives
If you want your lessons to be both engaging and equitable, you should listen to students' interests when creating curriculums.
Student voice and choice are critical. Students must have a say in the curriculum because it promotes active learning and empowerment. Allowing students to choose means they are engaged in their learning, further promoting equity.
A great way to highlight student voice is to demonstrate alternative ways to express their knowledge and skills other than traditional tests. Better yet, allow them options on how they will learn about specific topics. For example, you might give them several different resources and pathways they can explore to learn about a historical event or historical people and demonstrate their knowledge using evidence.
You might also try project-based learning because it provides a learning experience students can be empowered to help drive. According to PBLWorks, project-based learning is "A teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects." Students will also get to be collaborative and practice social-emotional skills. Be careful to also think about what kinds of projects students might be working on and be purposeful with picking projects that pertain to their interests. Better yet, give students choices on their projects or allow them to suggest their own!
7.Have diverse materials in the classroom and diverse books on your shelves
Classrooms today have students with unique backgrounds, cultures, and identities, so it is important that the classroom materials represent this.
Having diverse resources within the school is crucial because it can provide students with more information on specific topics. For example, if you teach about immigration to your students, having books or websites available for them to access after class will help them learn even more.
If there are no books or other materials about certain groups of students, then some students might feel like they don't belong or like they aren't represented. This means all students need to see themselves reflected back at them when they open a book to enjoy it. Check out 22 Diverse Book Choices for All Grade Levels from Edutopia for some great book suggestions.
8.Reach Multilingual Learners
Multilingual education specialist Carly Spina said that languages are tied to our identities. She believes that it is important to incorporate heritage languages into our learning spaces. Providing supports for multilingual learners provide more ways to make our classrooms more inclusive.
If you are looking to learn more about how to promote diversity, equity and inclusion in the classroom with your multilingual learners check out Episode 12 of the TeacherGoals Podcast with Carly Spina! In this episode, Carly shares how she approaches fostering community with multilingual students and their families by engaging them in conversations about their lives. She discusses the importance of reflection in order to create equitable practices in the classroom. She also provides examples of how using social media has helped her connect with her students and their families. Be sure to check it out by listening below!
9.Get help if you need it
It is important to remember that we all need support sometimes. If you're struggling with what to do, when to do it, or how to do it, it is important to seek out this information and learn from others.
There are many ways to get support, such as blogging, joining an online community Facebook group, listening to podcasts, or engaging with the amazing colleagues you have right down your hallway. The important thing is to put in the work needed to learn!
Creating an Equitable and Safe Place for your Students
Teachers need to have a mindset that promotes equity to teach students equitably. Additionally, teachers should utilize student voice and choice when planning lessons, use diverse materials in the classroom, and be proactive in seeking out resources to help them promote equity.
So what do all of these things have in common? They're all ways that we can promote equity in our classrooms. When we teach and learn from a perspective of equity, everyone benefits. Students feel seen and heard, and they are more likely to succeed both academically and socially. We hope that you'll try out some of these ideas in your classroom, and if you need help getting started, don't hesitate to reach out!
If you're looking to learn more about how to promote equity in your classroom, be sure to check out Episode 4 of the TeacherGoals Podcast with Dr. Sheldon Eakins! In this episode, Dr. Eakins discusses how to meet the needs of all students by having a mindset that promotes equity. He provides many great ideas and strategies that you can use in your classroom, so be sure to check it out by listening below!
There are many great resources available, and here are some of our favorites to help promote equity in the classroom:
- Culturally Responsive Teaching and The Brain: Promoting Authentic Engagement and Rigor Among Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students by Zaretta Hammond
- We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom by Bettina Love
- Start Here, Start Now: A Guide to Antibias and Antiracist Work in Your School Community by Liz Kleinrock
- Cultivating Genius: An Equity Framework for Culturally and Historically Responsive Literacy by Gholdy Muhammad
- For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood... and the Rest of Y'all Too: Reality Pedagogy and Urban Education by Christopher Emdin
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