Equity Journey Month Nine - May
Month 9: Building Inclusive Spaces
Did You Know?
There is a link between implicit bias and building inclusive spaces. The more aware we are of our own implicit biases, the less likely we are to commit microaggressions. This, in turn, increases our chances of creating an inclusive setting/classroom.
There is no single easy "checklist" that will help create the perfect environment, nor is there an easy definition of inclusive spaces. Everyone, whether a member of society or an educator in the school setting, must be committed to a mindset of inclusion, taking a pulse on the climate and culture of their space. Building inclusive spaces requires us to put all of our learning over the past eight months together with the end-goal of creating and maintaining spaces where anyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, gender, disability, spoken language(s), religion, politics, beliefs, appearance, etc. can feel the change and a sense of utmost safety and respect in their environment. Specific to the students, inclusive schools should be places where all students can reach their full potential.
Resources for Learning
Trust is an invaluable component of culturally responsive teaching. Teachers must go from building relationships to building rapport so students are ready to get into what Zaretta Hammond calls "the learning pit", the difficult place where productive struggle and real learning happens. In order to get down in that pit, teachers need to be inclusive in the class space and have a trusting partnership with their students. Teachers interested in building inclusive spaces will take responsibility to reduce students' socio-emotional stress and eliminate danger cues in the environment. They are warm demanders who balance demonstrating care and push. They support students to take ownership over their learning process and empower them with the tools to build self-sufficiency and intellective capacity. A student who does not trust you or feel comfortable in the class space will not get into the learning pit. Why? Because fear activates the amygdala and release cortisol. Cortisol stops all learning for a period of time (Hammond, p.40). When the brain feels threatened, the amygdala goes into action and "hijacks" the brain.
So, What Works In A Classroom?
- Building Rapport
- Defined as a "sympathetic connection" with another person that results in tha warm, friendly feeling you get when you are in sync (Hamond, p.77).
- "The effective glue that binds education relationships together." (quote by Brookfield, shared by Hammond, p. 163)
- When students feel safe in the classroom, it helps them take more risks needed to engage in higher levels of learning and thinking, all the while knowing that teachers are there to provide assistance if/when necessary.
- Teacher Caring - This guide focused on three principles of Teacher Caring
- Building Affirmation
- Understanding the Power of Words
- Engage with the Culturally Responsive Education Scorecard. This comprehensive tool is one way you can measure inclusivity and diversity and equity in your school. Use it on your own or with a team of educational professionals.
- Take a look at this list of Trust Generators from Zaretta Hammond's work. Which trust generators are you already using? Which can you use more often?
- Consider working on building trust one student at a time. Select a student you want to improve your learning partnership with and collect and track data related to your goal.
- Engage your school community in activities that emphasize belonging and inclusion or work to foster cross-group relationships.