If you’re an educator, then you know that establishing proper classroom management practices is absolutely vital to creating a positive and reaffirming learning environment for all of your students. Much of this can be done through strategic implementation of classroom rules, regulations and expectations. Still, there are certain lessons that we often shy away from as somewhat uncouth. Regrettably, some of these things can be extremely detrimental if left uncovered by you for your students. Tolerance is a prime example of something that can make or break a classroom. Without a strong culture of tolerance and acceptance among your students, it can be hard to make all of your pupils feel welcome at any given time. Whether you’re teaching a diverse classroom or one of socioeconomic homogeneousness, integrating lessons centering on teaching acceptance may be easier than you think. If you’re hoping to build this sort of curriculum within your classroom, try these tips and suggestions:
While it can make for a slightly awkward conversation, one of the most important aspects of teaching tolerance within your classroom is addressing stereotypes that exist across race, gender and social class. Though these stereotypes may not be at the forefront of the minds of your students, most children have been exposed to them from a young age and may harbor hurtful subconscious beliefs based in this misinformation. Try holding an activity with your class where you discuss how stereotypes are formed, how they persist in society, and address the negative repercussions that they can have in any environment, particularly an academic one. Be sure to make clear that stereotypes exist about all social groups, not just those about whom they’re more conventionally heard. Make clear that differences are something to be celebrated, and continually drive home the point that stereotypes have absolutely no place in your classroom. Education World refers to this process as ‘bursting’ stereotypes, and offers a handful of teaching resources for integrating this into curriculum.
According to Concordia Education, one of the more fun activities that you can use to teach tolerance and celebrate diversity is a cultural potluck. Assign your students a project in which they each investigate their own cultural heritage and get an opportunity to share it with the class. Have each student complete an essay on their family lineage, discussing in particular from which geography they emerge. This could feed extremely well into any lesson centering on the American immigration process and how we were founded as a nation of immigrants. Once they’ve all completed their essays, you can have students either break into groups or work individually to prepare a small dish from their country of origin. Encourage them to find some sort of recipe that represents not only where they come from, but how their family has changed over time. You can then use part of a class period to have the actual potluck event, with each student sharing their dish and story with the class as a whole. Of course, you’ll need to provide each student with a list of foods to avoid given allergies and dietary restrictions of your pupils.
Building a school identity through tolerance
If your school doesn’t yet have a program in play through which diversity is explored and celebrated, consult with your colleagues about starting one. When these sorts of projects are undertaken by the entire institution, you may begin to see a newfound sense of pride and identity being fostered among students at all grade levels. Speak with the other teachers at your grade level about potentially merging homerooms once a month or semester to discuss diversity in a larger, open forum.