In this month’s Different Like You profile, Lexi Brock, 17, speaks out about what it’s like to be multiracial in a culture that doesn’t always recognize her unique identity. Her story addresses some of the real challenges many multiracial teens face and is sure to get you thinking about ways to bring a greater sense of inclusiveness to your classroom and lessons. "Students learn best when they feel like they belong," says Calvin Lai, research director at Harvard’s Project Implicit. This list of ideas, summarized from Teaching Tolerance’s Critical Practices for Anti-Bias Education Guide, will help get you started:
1. Create a classroom contract. Ask your students to come up with a list of agreements for talking to one another and working out differences. Some examples could include:
- Listen with respect to the experiences of others.
- Try to understand what someone is saying before rushing to judgment.
- Put-downs of any kind are never okay.
2. Look at the way your space is set up. The physical environment of your classroom can send subtle but significant messages about diversity, relationship-building, and roles of students and teachers. For example, a classroom set up in a U-shape with the teacher’s desk at the head, posters of U.S. presidents, and quotes from J.F.K. and Winston Churchill sets a very different tone than desk clusters of four with posters of quotes from Maya Angelou and Aung San Suu Ky.
3. Rethink participation norms. Class work has traditionally centered around large group discussions with emphasis on students volunteering to answer questions. However, research has shown that this style can favor boys and those who are adept in verbal learning. Active listening, artistic response, small-group talks, and written response lessons can help kids with different learning styles. In fact, we have a great Write and Reflect activity this month, which asks students to reflect on times they’ve felt misunderstood or stereotyped—without having to share it out loud.