Inclusivity in Diversity: It Is Ok To Be Different

Diversity is natural but inclusivity is not because of prejudice. The day we give up our inhibitions and instill inclusivity in our soul, the world will become a better place. I am not asking to neglect differences, instead I encourage to embrace our differences positively to help each other, without judging or discriminating against each other. These same principles do apply to pedagogy as well because effective learning occurs when students and teachers unlearn their biases and learn to function together as a unit.

 

Diversity is characterized by, but not limited to gender, race, ethnicity, language, culture etc. The reason I say that diversity is not limited by the above characteristic traits is because even people who identify with the same traits are different individuals and have the right to be recognized differently from other members of the same community. This is where the concept of “Safe Space” steps in the classroom, where students are allowed be themselves, say what they feel, without being under the scrutiny. This does not mean students can be disrespectful to the teacher or other students, but express their views freely.

 

 

It is great how Cole Blakeway explains being different as “awesome” and that everyone is perfect the way they are.  His words, “You don’t need to fix something that isn’t broken” resonate with my idea of a classroom where pedagogical techniques aim to build an inclusive environment. Techniques such as discussing uncomfortable topics in a manner that does not offend anyone and if they do, being prepared to ameliorate the situation by explaining the objective point of view or discussing the counter topics that can make students feel better about it. An example of such a situation was discussed by Professor Marcia Chatelain, talking about finding a balance during difficult classroom discussions.

 

Inclusive pedagogical techniques are not just mean to be followed by teachers but are supposed to be inculcated to students as well who are equally responsible for making the classroom environment inclusive. Teachers are not supposed to teach students how to be inclusive, instead they need to be taught the generic concept of inclusion and brotherhood which will help them develop techniques to make their fellow classmates comfortable. One such example can be seen below, where Dr. Nandita de Souza discusses about Shreya, a student with Down Syndrome and how her classmates encourage her to participate particular activity. Shreya’s classmates were taught how to be inclusive and they found out a way to encourage her, knowing that she performs the best when the teacher is not around which eventually helped her.

 

 

Another technique to promote inclusion in classrooms is to be aware of your audience, their demographics and other characteristics. This is really helpful in making your examples and teaching practices generic enough to be understood by the whole class, giving students a sense of belonging. Teachers should also promote interactive activities that help students know each other better. When students appreciate the teacher and form a connection with the teacher as well as their peers, free flow of knowledge occurs in all directions.

 

In the words of Ilene Schwartz, “Student failure is instructional failure”. Based on her thoughts, I would like to state that if a student fails to understand what the teacher is trying to communicate, it is a failure on both ends and one of the reasons for such a failure could be the lack of inclusion. Ilene considers “membership”, “relationship” and “skills” as the outcome of being inclusive. Even though there might be indicators of such outcomes during the process of inclusion but indicators should not be mistaken for the outcome. Listen to her TED talk below and see how she walks you through “The Power Of Inclusive Education”.

 

 

I would like to end with the words of William Arthur Ward,

Inspire your students to be inclusive and see the world become a better place, one classroom at a time.

 

References:

1. Difficult Discussions: https://commons.georgetown.edu/teaching/teach/discussions/
2. Inclusive Pedagogy: https://commons.georgetown.edu/teaching/design/inclusive-pedagogy/
3. Dismantling Racism In Education: https://blog.heinemann.com/the-heinemann-podcast-dismantling-racism-in-education
4. Inclusive Education: A Different Perspective: https://medium.com/thesparksfoundation/inclusive-education-a-different-perspective-960afb4d1076
5. How To Make Your Teaching More Inclusive: https://www.chronicle.com/article/how-to-make-your-teaching-more-inclusive/
6. Innovative Inclusive Science Teacher Education: https://innovations.theaste.org/innovative-inclusive-science-teacher-education/
7. Teaching Resources for Social Justice: https://libguides.seattlecentral.edu/teaching-resources-for-social-justice/pedagogy

5 Replies to “Inclusivity in Diversity: It Is Ok To Be Different”

  1. The media on this post is really engaging and adds so much to your thoughts. Thanks for sharing these sources. To add to what you wrote, I think that this culture of inclusion is difficult to teach to adult learners. Overall, our entire society has difficulties creating an accepting environment. Classrooms are an opportunity to correct and learn some behaviors but it is also hard to do this amid a larger culture that does not make this a priority.

  2. Thank you for this well thought out post! I agree with you on that inclusion does not mean not seeing differences. It means appreciating the differences because our being different is what enriches the society. Also, Cole Blakeway’s talk was very powerful. We definitely don’t need to fix things that makes people different. We also need to be aware of that as teachers, when we are trying to teach things to our students, we should not try to fix things that might be because of the students’ different background, culture, etc. As you quoted, if we inspire students instead of telling what to do, the students will improve in their unique ‘awesome’ way.

  3. Thanks for your well structured and rich post. I also think that an inclusive mindset is what needs to be instilled in one’s personality rather than imposed on by teachers or any authorities. If children are not inspired by school teachings to accept differences, any enforced rules can only lead to hypocrisy.

  4. Hi Sahil.

    I really appreciate your post and all media included. I agree with you it is ok to be different. We know how the power, the creativity, the interaction will be when people with such diversity work together. It is not only the background that makes a big difference, there are the experiences and beliefs that bring to the table different perspectives. I love being different and I do not want to fix something or appear something not me just because I do not fit in a place, a culture, or even a classroom. In fact, sometimes I feel that everyone looks at me just because I wear a hijab and I do not look like a typical American person. Also, sometimes I do not even feel comfortable to speak because I know that my English is not good enough. in my case, I am ok, but these things may affect the other students’ confidence who are different. So, I really appreciate professors who care about their students’ diversity, needs, difference in the classroom!!

    Good luck!
    Rania

  5. Hello, Sahil! Thank you for sharing such an excellent blog filled with touching videos and techniques that definitely make all classrooms better for EVERYONE. I was initially pulled into this blog with such a cool interactive header you included. I think utilizing more multi-media functions in a blog makes it more engaging. However, what I found most impactful about your blog was the The “We Are All Different and That’s Awesome” Ted talk. As someone who has a younger brother with Down Syndrome, I could not agree more with the importance of embracing everyone’s differences as a positive characteristic. I know my younger brother, Jonathan, is often struggling to make friends in a challenging middle school era, but knowing that people like the kid’s mother are out there listening to people like my brother and actually carrying out promises like picking up the phone every day, made me smile. I hope our world and higher education institutions can continue to foster acceptance and inclusion in all aspects of our teaching.

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