“We are all different, which is great because we are all unique. Without diversity life would be very boring.” – Catherine Pulsifer
It is hard to understand what it is like to walk into a classroom as someone who feels “unlike” the rest of the class. Whether from a different country, a minority race, having a disability, or being a less represented sexual orientation, these identities can often make students feel excluded or less understood. Having completed all of my higher education at primarily white institutions in the United States, and identifying as white myself, I have had the privilege of just fitting in and feeling welcomed. Unfortunately, all students do not share this experience. While our classrooms are filled with diversity from students, the environment does not always foster a sense of inclusiveness. It is my goal as a future professor to create a learning space that is equal, inclusive, and accessible; a space that cultivates personal creativity and welcomes all perspectives.
In order for my classroom vision of inclusion to be a reality, ground rules will be set in an effort to minimize disrespect and discomfort. The rules will help guide students on how to approach discussion of topics that arise about sensitive issues such as race and gender. We will breakdown what respect looks like and why it is important.
Part of being inclusive is awareness for the need, our own bias, and mindfulness about assumptions toward others. What some of us consider a common experience may not be common at all to other students. Teaching will lack relevance if these experiences are not shared and incorporated into the learning environment. I intend to make time for students to share who they are, both with me and their peers. Learning about students from different backgrounds and cultures will help foster a classroom of inclusiveness.
Being inclusive also means being mindful of access and equality to learning materials and resources. For example, requiring a $200 textbook puts students with less financial resources at a disadvantage. So when possible, alternatives to classic textbooks will be provided to students. Additionally, open access resources that support learning will be provided to students. I am also a resource to students and should be accessible and meet the students in their place of comfort in regard to communication style. I do not believe access to learning materials or myself should be a source of stress.
My commitment to embracing diversity does not come from a first hand experience but rather a desire to create an open dialogue between students different from one another and bring a new level of respect and acceptance in the classroom. While it may be an ambitious goal, if one student leaves my classroom feeling more aware of bias or feels a little more comfortable talking about controversial topics, I will successful.