Students feeling valued, seen, heard, and included should not be left to chance. It should not depend on the teacher, school site or school district. Rather, this should be the experience of all students, everywhere.

As districts develop and refine plans for how to spend billions of dollars on professional development through the Educator Effectiveness Funds, I believe they should prioritize professional development around inclusion behaviors.

Simply put, this is about educators learning how to teach and behave in ways that make all students feel that they belong. It is critical that teachers gain support in identifying and meeting the needs of all their students and particularly those who do not share their cultural background.

In my years as a classroom teacher, I made it my mission to make sure all students were able to engage in all the lessons and learning experiences in my classroom. Author bell hooks’ words capture my commission and moral imperative best:

“I entered the classroom with the conviction that it was crucial for me and every other student to be an active participant….”

At the beginning of the school year, I took the initiative to glean as much information from parents and families as possible to help ensure the lessons I designed in class would not exclude any of my students. I was able to do this through interest surveys for students and parent questionnaires.

I scheduled individual “meet and greets” with parents and, when they were unavailable for an in-person meeting, we met by phone. Additionally, at the beginning of the year, my class engaged in getting-to-know-you activities that asked students to talk about their culture and traditions.

This gave my students an opportunity to share what they celebrated. Each year students shared about Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Three Kings Day, Winter Solstice, and some shared that they did not celebrate holidays at all.

Read the full article about prioritizing inclusivity in schools by Tamra Simpson at EdSource.