For this week, we are focusing on inclusive teaching and how to make every student feel comfortable in your classroom. To me, inclusive teaching means that every student of mine feels comfortable participating in class, standing in front of the class to give a speech, and feels comfortable to sit in my class knowing that they are safe. Most professors I have had go to great lengths to ensure that the classroom is an inclusive environment, even when faced with a challenging situation.
Sometimes, you need to have the tough conversation.
In the communication field, a large portion of research examines race, gender, representation, and communication amongst different cultures. Our graduate classes are small, and are no bigger than 16 people usually. We call them graduate seminars, and spend most of our class time discussing the readings and answering some discussion questions. Often, these discussions tackle challenging and largely controversial topics that are not typically discussed in the classroom. Our seminars are filled with “tough conversations.” Last fall, we were each sharing a life-changing event, and the class ended with many of us in tears.
The tough conversation often yields a better understanding of not only your peers, but also the topic of discussion.
After the video on microaggressions, I realized that a woman’s life is filled with mircoaggressions. As a woman myself for 22 years now, I did not even realize what a mircoaggression against women was. This prompted me to look it up, and took me to this article from The Way Women Work, describing several different kinds of microaggressions that women can experience in the workplace.
The first that they stated was calling a woman a nickname. If we are being completely honest, I thought that this was my own pet peeve that I always hated when men called me “sweetheart,” “honey,” “darling.” The second was that men are often described as “young and promising,” when women are often described as “young and inexperience.” I remember reading somewhere that a woman will not apply to any job that she feels she is the least bit unqualified for, and a man will apply to jobs that he feels he is remotely qualified for. Maybe this is a result of the way that we describe young woman as compared to how we describe young men? The other microaggression that stood out to me was men superiors getting in a woman’s personal space without permission. I once had a boss that would constantly lean over my shoulder and rest his chin on my shoulder, which would make me very uncomfortable.
These may be instances in the workplace, but it is imperative to be mindful of these microaggressions when teaching in the classroom as well. Students from all walks of life are going to be walking into your classroom, and you must be prepred for any lived experience a student can carry, as well as the unlived experience that a student has. A student with no similar lived experience can sometimes cause more damage than a student that has experienced many microaggressions.
In undergrad, I was in a women in American politics course. It was a class of 20 women and three men, and two of the men hardly spoke. The one man that spoke felt that it was necessary to state…aggressions, not even microaggressions at the class against women. And he had a girlfriend. The professor would listen to his opinion, then open it up to the class, where he would get it handed to him daily. I cannot imagine that every woman in the class was able to brush off his comments, though, and sometimes they cut deep.
As a teacher, it is imperative to consider that your actions have consequences–even the smallest thing you do. Homero put it best a few weeks ago, when he stated that someone in your classroom is always looking up to you. You are always a role model. The inclusive classroom is yours to make.