Inclusion has become a buzzword in education but what exactly is it? The National Curriculum dictates that schools and teachers are obliged to ensure all pupils are included in effective learning. Every child must be given the same opportunities to achieve regardless of what their individual needs or barriers to learning are. Inclusion also means respecting people from all backgrounds and cultures. An inclusive classroom is one where pupils understand the importance of this and are able to work harmoniously with people who are different to them.
Real inclusivity can only be successful in a classroom when all pupils feel like validated members of the school community. This can only be achieved through open discussion and celebrating people from all abilities levels, gender, sexual orientation and cultural backgrounds. An inclusive classroom is one where everyone feels respected and appreciated.
With more marginalised groups speaking up about their experiences, young people today are exposed to more social issues than any generations before. We have a responsibility as educators to promote inclusivity in our classrooms.
Here’s some inclusivity practises you can start incorporating today:
1. Consider your approach to teaching
Take a candid look at your own values and approach to disability, gender, sexuality and race. Do you think you are letting your personal biases steep into your teaching? Educators need to be aware that the examples they use, the way they cover topics and the harmful comments they let slide can alienate members of their class.
If your teaching acknowledges the experiences of the pupils from different backgrounds in a non- judgemental, non-stereotypical way you’ll encourage your pupils to respect and value each other. Inclusive values are developed through a pupil’s lived experience and their exposure to other world-views. Help your pupils understand that there are alternative perspectives out there and there is something to learn in all of them.
2. Have high expectations of all your students
A self-fulfilling prophecy is a situation in which something happens because you expected or said it would happen. Be honest and ask yourself: do I have different expectations for boys and girls, pupils of colour and white pupils and pupils from LGBTQ community?
We can all think back to fond memories of teachers at school that believed in us and made their high expectations clear. That feeling of support and positive expectation drives us to reach our full potential. Us teachers love when someone believes in us and our pupils are no different. Pupils have a better attitude to learning when they feel that their teacher has faith in them. They need reassurance from us.
High expectations also relates to pupil behaviour. The basic rules of respecting you, each other and the classroom and the consequences for breaking those rules must be absolutely clear and understood by everyone. These rules must be consistently applied to everyone because inclusion also means fairness.
3. Create opportunities to listen to all children
It is important to hear what your pupils have to say – especially the ones who have societal conscious or unconscious biases stacked against them. The reason we have to make an active effort to listen to them is because they may have never felt comfortable enough to share their thoughts and feelings before. They may be fearful of judgement or lack the self-esteem needed to express themselves openly.
Opportunities to listen should be incorporated in normal day-to-day lessons. This could be in the form of class discussions, group work, pair work or even a one-to-one with you. This helps all pupils feel safe and included so they can fully engage with learning.
Creating an inclusive classroom will not only help pupils from marginalised groups but will also support those who are not. It gives them the opportunity to build an understanding of others and see the beauty in all people.
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