You don’t want any of your students to feel unwelcome. So, as a teacher, what can you do to make everyone feel included in your classroom? These are some things that you can do.
Ask for Pronouns
Don’t assume that the pronouns your students were given at birth are the pronouns that they want you to use. The best way to find how your individual students want to be addressed is to ask them. Since this can be a sensitive subject, you can hand out questionnaires where they can give their answers privately in writing. Ask the following:
- What are your pronouns or neopronouns?
- Is this something that you would like to keep private?
- Do you have a different name/nickname that you prefer?
Asking your students their pronouns and using them correctly will make them feel welcome and respected. If you make a mistake with their pronouns, simply apologize and correct yourself. Under no circumstances should you purposely misgender someone. This is hurtful and offensive and could push them away from the classroom.
Having a rigid mindset won’t lead to an inclusive classroom. You have to be flexible so that you can accommodate all of your students’ needs.
For instance, students that have social anxiety disorder will have trouble standing in front of the entire class and making a speech. This situation will cause them a lot of stress and negatively impact their marks.
If you have to assign a presentation, try to make some accommodations for students with these public speaking fears. You could give them the option to do their presentations to you in private, which could be less stressful than doing one in front of a large audience of their peers. Or they could record their speech at home alone and submit it to you.
It’s frustrating when students miss class or don’t submit their homework on time, but you shouldn’t scold them for these missteps. Treat your students with compassion and understanding. Otherwise, you risk making a student feel more isolated or stressed for things that could be relatively out of their control.
Maybe they got sick and needed time to recover. Maybe they’re dealing with family trouble. Maybe they’re struggling with their mental health. Statistics from the 2019 Canadian Health Survey on Children and Youth show that 17% of youths between 15 and 17 described their mental health as fair or poor — that’s 1 in 5. These results are likely higher after the pandemic.
Here are some compassionate actions you can take:
- Do not scold students for being late, missing class or not providing assignments on time in front of their classmates. If you are concerned, talk to them in private.
- Allow for extensions on assignments.
- Allow for makeup quizzes and tests.
- Create opportunities for extra credit for students that are behind.
Sometimes, your classroom isn’t the right fit for a student — and that’s okay! If you notice that a student is struggling despite your best efforts, you should take the initiative to point them to a more effective alternative.
For instance, if you notice that a student’s grades are low because they can’t focus in the classroom, you could suggest online school as an alternative to classroom work. Online school will eliminate the distractions of the classroom, which could help them concentrate on their tasks. This simple change could help them thrive in school and get higher marks than ever before.
An inclusive classroom is the best classroom for your students. So, follow these tips right away.