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DANCE

Photo by Kevin Gliner

SUGGESTIONS FOR THE FIELD

As teachers, we are responsible for the lives of our youth for up to nine hours a day. It is our duty to impart knowledge and prepare them for the world. However, as teachers, we must truly see the world as it is today to be effective. Our world is diverse, just as our student population is; therefore, we are responsible for reaching each child in a way that allows them to learn to their fullest capacity. This essay aims to invoke change in the school system by implementing inclusive teaching practices. 

Antiquated forms of teaching are no longer effective. Imagine a class in the 1980s with thick brown-orange carpeting, all the desks facing forward, and the teacher standing at the front of the classroom as the supreme expert. The overarching rule of this archaic classroom environment is that no talking is allowed. Consequently, the student must write “I will not talk in class” one hundred times. It is preferred that the student is seen and not heard. Moreover, the fear of demerits or, worse, corporal punishment strikes fear in the student body, apart from a few rebellious students who challenge authority. That is the education system I grew up in learning. This learning environment made me reticent, mild-mannered, never questioning, and rarely speaking. I am unsure when or how this way of being in a classroom came into being, but it is a damaging and oppressive way to educate our youth. Finding my voice and standing firm in my truth took me years.

This leads me to my first question: Whose voice matters? The teacher’s voice? The student’s voice? And who decides? While the 1980s classroom of long ago is not as prevalent today, remnants of reward/punishment methodology and the teacher-student hierarchy continues. We are still conditioned to see teachers as the experts, and it is ingrained in students (sometimes blatantly and sometimes not) to revere and sometimes fear them. I believe we must partner in learning in the classroom. Through inclusivity and partnering, we change the dynamic and enhance circular learning where I teach you, and you teach me. 

Once we become aware of an issue, it is our duty to address it and remedy it. As an educator, I propose the following ideas for implementing more inclusivity in the classroom. First, we must know our students. We must communicate with them on multiple levels—as teachers and humans. Once we truly know our students, we can create an environment where communication flows and is respected by all who speak. Second, I believe that exposing the students to various role models that differ in age, race, gender, and ethnicity can aid in belonging and help with goal setting for their future. Although I may not have the same background or be of the same color as my students, my job as an educator is to encourage them to learn about themselves through the histories and lives of other role models. 

Additionally, we must learn to see our students as individuals with much to offer in the classroom. Entering a room, they are more than just a vessel. They bring with them their heritage, upbringing, memories, and culture. Suppose they are to be active participants in the classroom; In that case, it should be recognized and honored how they each contribute through the many facets of themselves. Finally, we should seek to make our classroom a conglomeration of differences. Instead of wanting and conditioning our students to be more Americanized, we should cherish the differences and see their uniqueness as part of a big, beautiful patchwork quilt – all coming together to make a bigger picture. The beauty of our differences could be a binding and uniting factor versus a dividing one. As Gerald Casel said in On Race and Abstraction, “The idea that all people deserve to be seen and valued as their authentic selves, we have to celebrate difference and recognize when Whiteness takes over. We will always be bewildered by it until we start to see, acknowledge, and dismantle it.” In conclusion, as teachers, we educate and protect our students regardless of who they are. Our mission should remain to continue learning so that we can reach all of our students and teach with an inclusive heart. 

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