5 Tips for Dealing with Discrimination in the Classroom
Classrooms are more challenging now then they were twenty years ago. The 21st century brings a new type of discrimination into the classroom and that is gender discrimination. Children are encouraged to express their gender in a unisex way. There are debates about using the words boys and girls since some children already know what their style of dress is by kindergarten. Children are all supposed to be treated on an equal basis regardless of race, color, gender, creed and religious practices. A teacher’s job is to teach and behaviors are causing new challenges when trying to reach goals with challenging behaviors. Then there are children with disabilities and students who come from different backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicities.
These distractions can be hard for a teacher to try and be professional when kids keep pushing each other’s buttons on a daily basis. This constant fighting revolves from the fact that there are so many kids that are different in socioeconomic backgrounds, disabilities, gender, and race. Some parents are modeling discriminatory behavior and kids are picking up on this at home. The students then bring it to the classrooms and the playgrounds and suddenly there is inappropriate name calling. There is also the issues of children that have learning disabilities and fall into a gray area. This is challenging as well for teachers because not all students are understanding the concepts being taught at the same pace. Here are five tips for dealing with discrimination in the classroom.
1) Try organizing the children into different groups according to their needs. Let the students work at their own pace without stress, with easier levels that still will challenge them, and that the students understand. This eliminates the label factor of being slow and teased about it. Design a project that all the students can work on and use each student’s talents to assign a task that they are good at. This teaches students to support each other and look at their peers on the same level.
2) Watch how you speak to students and don’t divide the boys and girls because of labels they had over twenty years ago. Don’t stick any labels on students when they are misbehaving by calling them unruly or misbehaved. Tell the student they have a time out or they have to sit next to you. In middle school, this works well because most students don’t want to sit next to their teacher and usually will behave after one incident. If you hear children using words they hear at home describing gender, remind the student that there are consequences for using inappropriate language.
3) Teachers might have to alter their curriculum when teaching various subjects. The reason is there were many men and women that were great mathematicians, scientists, historians, chemists, singers, artists etc. In addition, there were many women and men of color that made a huge contribution to our society and won important awards for their work. This way all students will feel they can relate to someone important from their gender and their race, ethnicity or disability. There are going to be challenges when students learn about different centuries when their relatives or people were persecuted. Start a conversation and have the students ask questions about what caused all these issues in the past centuries? Make sure you reiterate that times have changed now and there still is fighting in different countries going on, but many of the people are innocent citizens.
4) Punishing students has also changed and years ago nuns in Catholic schools actually hit kids that were misbehaving. As time went on, the hitting stopped but the labels continued. Behavior has to be changed and controlled in the classroom without anger and repercussions. Talk to your students first about an incident and see if they get an understanding of what they did wrong. If the student continues to be unruly and disruptive, have the child sit near you. In cases of violent children, have them take a breather with another teacher in a different classroom. Some children are classified as emotionally disturbed (ED). This isn’t a label all students should know about but the staff should have a plan and understanding of the situation with the child and follow through.
5) It’s important for teachers to be a caretaker, social worker, parent at times and nurturer. This helps the student have a good relationship with their teacher. It’s important for students to be able to trust their teachers no matter what gender they are or race, creed, religion, disability, ethnicity, etc. The student should feel like a person who is equal to all their peers no matter what their level of intelligence is. When a child knows you respect them as a teacher, they are able to understand that you are not criticizing their character, but you are helping them improve their work. This is where teachers should listen to their students talking about their work and learning what was difficult for them to understand. This is a good way to bond with students and gain their trust so they feel comfortable talking to you about anything whether it be gender, race, etc. A unique school district is built on diversity, acceptance, faith, patience, and understanding of all.
When parent-teacher conference time comes around, students should be able to feel comfortable introducing their parents to their friends and teachers. Teachers should be able to show the parents how well their classroom runs and all of their students are accepted by one another. Parents will enjoy seeing the unity the students have built with each other to form their classroom. When parents come to visit have each student create something that represents them and where they came from. Parents will feel more relaxed and relieved that their child’s school shows acceptance to everyone. There is a shortage of teachers in many states in the USA because the school systems are such a challenge. It’s time parents and teachers start working together to break the cycle of discrimination and create peace in their classrooms.