Relationships come first. This means relationships are the single most important thing in my classroom. What does that look like? It looks like knowing your students’ schedules so you can adjust the due dates and exams in your class accordingly. It looks like being aware of your students’ dietary restrictions and providing alternatives for them. Whether it be a personal choice, allergy, or for cultural reasons providing those students with safe alternatives will help create a more inclusive classroom environment (Vaught, 2017). It looks like learning each of your students’ individual goals, so that you know to put a smiley face sticker on that test even though they only got 51%. It looks like giving your students a voice by providing them with choices in what they want to learn about and how they want to demonstrate their understanding. It looks like actually getting to know your students’ interests, so that you can design lessons they will be genuinely engaged in. My classroom is a place to explore and discuss. I want my classroom to be loud, filled with excited voices. My students will work collaboratively in groups every single class, since I recognize that “student collaboration…has a powerful impact on learning” (p. 39, Lilijedahl, 2020). Being able to teach something demonstrates one of the highest levels of understanding, so my students will get the opportunity to learn from one another. As a privileged, middle class, cisgender, white woman I recognize that there are certain topics I am not best qualified to teach about. I know that the most meaningful and appropriate way to facilitate learning about Indigenous ways of being is by allowing Indigenous voices to do the teaching (Grafton & Melancon, 2020). I believe that creating a classroom environment where every single student feels seen, heard, and appreciated is the key to successful academic learning. The truth is, your instructional strategies are irrelevant if your students do not feel safe to learn in your space. So, this should always be the first priority.
Grafton, E. & Melancon, J. (2020). “The dynamics of decolonization & indigenization in an era of academic ‘reconciliation’”. Decolonizing & Indigenizing Education in Canada.
Liljedahl, P. (2020). Building thinking classrooms in mathematics, grades K-12: 14 teaching practices for enhancing learning. Corwin Mathematics.
Vaught, C. (2017). “Inclusivity is not a guessing game”. Rethinking Schools.