“It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength.” -- Maya Angelou
Overview: Welcome back to my blog! In this post, I will outline steps you can take to teach inclusion and acceptance. As an added bonus, I will also discuss steps I will take to teach inclusion and acceptance in my future classroom.
Note: The fight against racial injustice and police brutality is a marathon, not a race. That being said, I wanted to extend the conversation beyond just one post. I feel that it is my responsibility to use my platform for good and to advocate for the Black Lives Matter movement. Although I will not be addressing racial injustice every week, this blog will always be a platform for inclusion and understanding.
How you can teach inclusion and acceptance
To put it simply, if you are actively involved in a child’s life, you are a teacher. Children look up to adults, family, and caregivers for life lessons, and they observe whatever is going on around them. Therefore, it is essential that we teach them values, skills, and behaviors we wish to see in the world. One of the most important lessons to teach our children is how to be inclusive and accepting.
So, how do you go about teaching a child inclusivity? Here are some ideas. . .
1. Explain Differences Instead of Ignoring THem
Take every opportunity to explain. When your child asks you a question regarding differences, address it seriously. By taking the time to explain a difference, you are promoting the growth of a positive, inclusive mindset that your child can later pass on to others. With children, every question or thought is a learning opportunity. Take it and run.
2. Be a Role Model
You don’t even need to have a conversation with a child to teach them something. In fact, children learn more from our actions than our words. That being said, children take in whatever is in front of them, and they are keen observers of behavior. To encourage inclusivity, emulate accepting and inclusive behaviors, even when you are not around your child. Take measures to ensure that your actions are sending the right message.
To learn more about the science on how children learn behavior, visit my post on mirror neurons.
3. Immerse Your Child in an Open Environment
If your child is not exposed to diversity, they may not develop inclusive behaviors because they were never given the opportunity to apply them. Additionally, they will not be able to build a wide range of relationships with people of different backgrounds or abilities. It is best to immerse your child in an environment where inclusivity is taught and represented. For example, put them in schools where different races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, and abilities are represented; where individuality is encouraged; and where everyone is supported.
4. Teach Compassion
Along with empathy, compassion is a skill that is central to acceptance. A child should be willing to take initiative in social situations and to meet new people. Challenge your child to make new friends. Teach them to observe who may be feeling left out, and challenge them to reach out.
5. Use Toys and Children's Literature
Similar to being exposed to an open school and social environment, it is important to expose your child to an open home environment. Introduce your child to books with diverse characters that address differences in ability, race, ethnicity, and culture.
Books are a great vehicle for broadening your child’s horizons by also introducing them to relatable situations with a variety of characters. Additionally, use your child’s toys to reflect diversity and inclusion. When a child plays, they are often replicating real-life scenarios and experiences; by including dolls or other toys that reflect differences, your child takes the initiative to exposing themself to diverse experiences.
6. Teach your Child how to be an Advocate, Not a Witness
When your child takes action on injustice, they are helping create a more inclusive world. Take every opportunity to teach your child to speak up on issues they don’t understand or agree with. Teach your child to stand up to bullies at school and to reach out to adults. A witness contributes to a problem, while an advocate addresses and stops it.
7. Educate Yourself
To teach your child how to be inclusive and accepting, it is important to educate yourself on how to be an appropriate and effective role model. It is essential to teach the right lessons, so do research on how to be more inclusive.
Take action in your life to cast a wider net, learn about other cultures, and how to be more respectful and understanding. Your child mirrors you and your actions, so make sure that you are sending the right message.
Those are just a few of the steps you can take to teach inclusion and acceptance. If you would like to learn more, scroll down to the “Sources/Additional Resources” section of this post or go to the “Additional Resources” page.
How I Will Teach INclusion and Acceptance
Teachers do not teach only their academic subjects. They also teach kindness, patience, generosity, and inclusivity. To help students be the most successful, it is integral that teachers make their classroom a welcoming and accepting environment. As a future teacher, I will take steps to support all of my students and to lead them to be more inclusive and accepting.
Along with many of the steps listed above, here are some additional steps I will take to be an inclusive teacher AND to teach inclusion:
1. Classroom Visuals
It is important that students and families feel welcome before they even step foot in my classroom. That is why I plan on hanging posters that portray messages of inclusion on my door (ie. "All are welcome here").
In my classroom, I will hang posters or images that set guidelines for the class with similar inclusive messages. I want to set an expectation for my students to accept and to be respectful with one another.
2. morning Routine
Please note: I got this idea for a morning routine from Megan, a teacher I worked with as a paraprofessional.
During the morning greeting in large group, I'll have students choose to say "hello" or another simple greeting in different languages; of those languages, I'll include home languages of my students that may not be English. By incorporating this small routine into my daily schedule, I hope to support my students' different backgrounds and cultures through language.
3. Conversations with Parents/Caregivers
In parent conferences or even before the school year starts, I hope to communicate with parents on how I can make my classroom more inclusive. This could mean a myriad of things, but one topic I could address was whether they would like me to integrate any aspects of their culture (language, music, food, etc.) into the classroom.
Again, I want to make my students and parents feel welcome and accepted, so I will accept any input I can to make my classroom a more accepting learning environment.
I hope this post was helpful and educational! As always, thank you for your support. :)
See you next week!
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Do you think teachers should be more inclusive? If so, how?
How are you teaching inclusion and acceptance?
What other advice do you have on this subject?
Raising an Inclusive Child
How to answer your child's questions about differences
Teaching Diversity in the Classroom and Home (Preschool)
11 Ways for Teaching Kids to be Inclusive of Others (to prevent bullying)
200 of the Best Diverse Children's Books for Preschoolers
50 Children's Books That Celebrate Diversity
Best Multicultural toys and games for kids
Take Action. Start the Conversation. Be the Change.
Meghan Hesterman (she/her) is a child advocate and education blogger. While a student at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD), she created Journal of a Future Teacher to share her journey in becoming an early childhood teacher.