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Are you an educator? When it comes to social issues, is it draining to see ignorant comments, posts, and pictures shared across various social media outlets and even more frustrating to witness this ignorance first hand? It is time for our communities to reassess our approach to conversations around equity and inclusion. Below you will find four action items that ALL educators can incorporate into their daily lives to create effective environments to educate students!
1. Stop relying on the term “Diversity!” Try to go so far as not using it!
One of my biggest pet-peeves is the usage of the term, “diversity.” The term is a soft word. What does it really mean? I say that half-joking but the truth is that folks tend to use the term in a superficial way. As an educator, I am often asked to provide workshops or keynotes that addresses the topic of diversity. When this happens, I am grateful that others are focusing on the topic (because not enough naturally do) but I become frustrated on the lack of specificity attached to the request.
“What about diversity?” “What do you want me to focus on?”
As educators, let’s move beyond the basic word “diversity” and dive into concepts that will challenge our students perspectives! We should be providing students alternative truths to their own realities. By moving the conversation beyond rudimentary concepts such as “what is a stereotype” and “what makes up diversity” then we can help students come to understand the truths of others. My call to action is that we do not stop at basic concepts but move past them into uncomfortable spaces. Stepping outside of our comfort zones is where the beauty happens.
So, the question is, “if not diversity, then what?” To replace this soft term, we should be asking folks to conduct workshops on topics such as institutionalized oppression, power and privilege, intersectionality, and inclusivity. These topics paired with action steps to promote change will encourage students to step up as change agents.
2. Create an Environment that Fosters these Conversations
In any environment, educators want to create a space where folks feel comfortable voicing their opinions. One of the biggest hurdles that educators must face when talking about topics of equity and inclusion is the fear associated with saying the wrong thing. Educators must create environments where students feel comfortable talking about these topics.
How do educators do this in their space? The first step is to be proactive! Educators must educate themselves and feel comfortable having these conversations. Next, educators must set the ground rules and remind students of them. It comes down to creating a space where folks feel comfortable messing up! Lastly, educators must realize that these conversations don’t happen in isolation to other topics. Conversations about equity and inclusion intersect all topics.
3. Expand the Curriculum!
Let me first recognize and commend the amount of time and dedication educators commit to their job. Educators are under appreciated and should be recognized more publicly and financially.
My call to educators in the K-12 and higher education is to take advantage of teachable moments within the curriculum you are already providing.
For example, if a requirement in the K-12 curriculum is to educate students on inventors of the 19th century then create a holistic view of history. Are all of the inventors you are teaching students, White? If so, create assignments or focus on inventors who were Black, Latino/a, Asian, Native American, etc.
Another example, if the institution that you are working at only provides classes that educate students about Eurocentrism then advocate for African American studies to be added to the curriculum.
It is our responsibility as educators to create a holistic learning experience for our students. It has been my experience that many districts and institutions lack this emphasis within the curriculum. Let’s do better!
4. Stand Up and Speak Out!
As educators we MUST model the way! I recognize that this can be one of the hardest action items for folks. But, if our students recognize our silence then they too will be silent. We must stand up and speak out when we see injustices. If we are not willing to set an example for our students then we cannot expect them to see a personal responsibility to speak up and out.
The above list is not all inclusive! Please provide some additional action steps below in the comment section!
Education on topics of equity and inclusion it is not “their responsibility” it is “our responsibility!”