The pain of discrimination is hurting our country and may have seen its impact in your own community. You may have even seen discrimination in your classroom.
Today, we see demonstrations on the streets taking place with people standing together against injustice and racism.
If you’re wondering what you can do as an educator to make this a better world for everyone, understand that fighting discrimination starts with promoting diversity and inclusivity.
Here are seven ways you can fight discrimination in education and encourage tolerance.
Get Informed and Stay Informed
Quite often, we think we know more than we actually do about specific subjects. Racism may be one of them. When it comes to racism, it is essential to be informed, especially if you are a teacher.
Racism is, unfortunately, a deeply ingrained part of our society that we may have trouble recognizing. An example of discrimination in education is the dress codes found in many schools. Many school dress codes contain exclusionary policies, specifically when it comes to hairstyles.
There are numerous cases of students denied the right to participate in sports or even graduate unless they cut their dreadlocks. There have been similar instances with male indigenous students who refuse to cut their long hair, which is considered sacred.
Families and children are often punished for choosing not to conform. It is our duty as an educator to make every effort to stop veiled discriminant and destructive pattern from continuing.
No matter the circumstance, we must always address and confront discrimination in all forms every single time. It’s never okay to look the other way when we see other people being mistreated or abused.
Think of what your students may be feeling. One of the most painful things anyone can experience is people being silent around them while they suffer.
It can feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders when you feel forced to stand alone for what is right and just. But when you can look around and notice others joining together in the act of solidarity for one cause, you all make it clear that discrimination will not be tolerated.
Give Your Classroom and Curriculum a “Diversity Audit”
Now more than ever, students deserve and need to feel included, celebrated, and loved for who they are. They need to see themselves in their classroom and their educational material.
Take a look around your classroom. Does the space on your walls display an inclusive environment? Are your students able to see themselves? It is crucial you create a space where your students from all backgrounds feel safe and celebrated.
One of the ways teachers can fight racial discrimination in their classroom is to express interest in the different ethnic backgrounds of their students.
Listening to truly understand your students is vital. Active listening involves the way you respond when students report being bullied or discriminated against in the classroom, school, and the community.
The classroom culture you create should prioritize every student having a voice while also honoring student experience and providing emotional and social safety.
Teach With Empathy
Teaching with empathy is crucial, especially if you are trying to fight discrimination in the classroom. A person doesn’t have to experience discrimination or racism to be sensitive to its ubiquity in our society. To show empathy is to show love.
If you want to help your class practice empathy, check out Empatico’s website.
Empatico is a free tool that connects classrooms around the world. Their mission is to empower teachers and students “to explore the world through experiences that spark curiosity, kindness, and empathy.” They combine activities (designed to foster and build meaningful connections) with live video among students ages 6-11.
Lead By Example and Set High Expectations
Once you’ve laid the foundation for your inclusive classroom, it needs to be clear that you have high expectations for not only your students but their parents and your school as well. Challenge any practices, punishments, and policies that take away from the goal of creating and fostering an inclusive environment.
For example, Teaching Tolerance advocates for the switch from popular “zero-tolerance” to “zero-indifference” policies. Mounting evidence suggests that zero-tolerance policies do not make schools safer. School staff name and respond to disrespectful conduct, but they do not implement automatic punishments such as suspension or expulsion.
Zero indifference means never letting bullying, discrimination, and other disciplinary issues go unaddressed. Every day, make the conscious decision to show your students what it means to stand for what is right within the classroom and beyond.
Rather than standing on the sidelines and watching institutional discrimination continue, why not get involved and do something about it?
Stand up and be an ally if you witness discrimination, racism, or brutality happening in your local community. If you feel incredibly motivated, you can protest.
If you are unable to take your protests to the streets, you can organize online petitions or walk-outs. Another meaningful way you can get involved is by paying attention to what elected officials are saying. It is important you cast your vote for equality.
Below is a list of ways you can get involved:
- Support black or immigrant-owned businesses
- Create a diversity committee at your school
- Analyze school policies that may harm or discriminate against students
- Demand action from your local elected officials and representatives
- Request ongoing sensitivity training for teachers and administrators
- Find an online petition fighting against discrimination and add your name
- Support justice reform through organizations such as the National Police Accountability Project, Campaign Zero, The Sentencing Project, and the Prison Policy Initiative
Teaching Tolerance and Fighting Discrimination
If you’ve seen the impacts of discrimination in your school or your classroom, you’re probably wondering how you can make this a better world for everyone. Fighting discrimination starts with promoting diversity and inclusivity.
We hope you found our post helpful and gave you some ideas on ways you can fight discrimination and teach tolerance in your classroom.
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