Too often people hope that inclusion will happen in their classroom. Hope is never a strategy! Be intentional. Plan inclusion into your actions, activities, and curriculum and the feeling of inclusion will begin to predominate in the hearts and lives of your students. Here are three simple ways you can begin to become more intentional and get the inclusive results your are looking for in your students.
Demonstrate Authentic Inclusion
Children do what they see. Being an adult puts you in the position of leadership that will influence the children either toward inclusion or exclusion. As a teacher or professional, are you a role model for inclusion? Do the children in your classroom feel they belong and is the classroom encouraging inclusion amongst the students?
Plan daily things you can do and actions you can take to demonstrate that inclusion is a priority to you personally and in the classroom. Children can see through somebody who is not authentic in a heartbeat. If inclusion is not something that you believe in and hold near and dear to your heart, it will be impossible to etch it into the hearts of your students.
Nobody can connect to somebody who exudes the feeling that inclusion is easy and they do it perfectly. Share your own imperfections and how being inclusive can be a struggle. When I am teaching after-school classes, I will share about opportunities I have missed to include someone. I will discuss how I judged someone, walked passed a person in need, or struggled to include someone I didn’t like. We talk about how the students have experienced similar things and what we all can do the next time to act differently.
Constantly let them know how important inclusion is to you personally and how hard you try to make progress with it in your own life. Share creative things you do that are inclusive and how you keep trying to progress and grow toward including others.
Emphasize The Contrast In Outcomes
It is important to stress the outcomes of our decisions which often evolve into actions. For example, if I take a few moments to include and help somebody, what would the outcome be versus the result of not taking action? People may see inclusion as too much work or something they “have” to do but don’t necessarily “want” to do. Often you hear excuses like, “I don’t have time or it is inconvenient.” However, if I had taken action and done something that made a person feel seen, heard, and valued; how would that make me feel? How does it make the recipient of my action feel?
Share with your students about how not being inclusive is a missed opportunity for both you and the recipient. Many times we talk about not including somebody as being bad, and therefore, a child may translate that to “I am bad." Instead talk about it as missed opportunity and how taking advantage of that opportunity makes a difference that causes a positive reciprocal feeling between people. Make inclusion an opportunity they need to begin to seek out like a treasure hunt. Inclusion is an empowering decision that all of us can make and take action on!
When you think about inclusion, there really is no downside. I will always tell my students that if they want to feel more included, become more inclusive. Inclusion is as reliable as Isaac Newton’s Law of Gravity: if you throw something up in the air it will come down. If you include others, you will be included. It may not always happen as you want it to or in the timeframe you are looking for, but you will feel more included the more inclusive you become!
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