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Dos & Don'ts of an Inclusive Classroom

Teachers are responsible for so much in a given day. Nothing is more important than ensuring that students are safe (emotionally and physically) and positioned to give their best effort. Teachers play a critical role in setting the tone and creating a strong classroom climate. Below are a few dos and don'ts that are a not a catch all, but a starting place.

1. Do Represent - Regardless of the demographics of your classroom, students need to see themselves and others represented in the classroom. Review your books, project units, math problems, quotes and other instructional materials and double check that names and visual images represent students from different backgrounds. #representationmatters
DON'T use stereotypes to guide decisions. All black american students aren't fans of Hip Hop. Additionally, if you have a class with one person of color, don't call on them to read the problem/story with character you perceive to be similar, or look to them as the voice of an entire group of people.

2. Do Affirm - Get to know students and their background. Affirm them by learning how they learn best, what makes them tick, what keeps them engaged, and how to best communicate with them. For example, in some cultures, looking people in the eyes can be considered disrespectful. 
DON'T force students into practices that don't work for them, or take a "one size fits all" approach.  Remember, fair is not equal. 

3. Do Keep High Expectations - All students regardless of their backgrounds deserve to be held to highest expectations. Teachers should be explicit with their expectations so that students are clear on what to do in order to be successful in the class. Celebrate these expectations in a manner that communicates your commitment to students and their learning trajectory. 
DON'T make excuses for students, or base high expectations based soley on the normative culture. 

4. Do Address Breaches - When something happens in the classroom that takes aim at someone's identity, it must be addressed. Not addressing it will have an impact on your culture and how students feel in your classroom. Children may say something to you, or their peers that is offensive, and as the leader of the classroom, teachers have a responsibility to address it. We aren't perfect, but we are the adults. Not sure how to respond? Consider the following:
*Take a moment to recognize what happened
*Journal activity
*Ask the person(s) impacted what will help
*Have a peer conference
*Discuss it in morning meeting
*Use an "Anonymous Jar" to have students write out their thoughts/feelings and discuss 
DON'T - Make light of serious situations, or ignore them. Remember, not saying something, says something! 

5. Do maintain relationships with key stakeholders - It's not always easy, but continuously make an effort to get to know the people who matter the most to students. There are some natural moments that we have (parent/teacher night, report card pickup, ect.), but teachers should have touchpoints in between those moments. Not always easy, but proves to students that you care about them beyond the four walls. Additionally, consider getting to know how guardians like to receive their communication (text, email, call). The tough part is restoring relationships with guardians that might not have gotten off on the right foot, or that have taken a turn in the wrong direction. I've experienced this more times than I've wanted and will say that it's humbling and a must. 
DON'T only contact parents/guardians when there's an issue, or as a the "main consequence" for students.

What additional strategies do you have? Please leave them in the comments! 
Tanesha Forman
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