17 Nov Tips for Building an Inclusive Environment in Schools
An authentically positive environment cannot exist without inclusivity. The moment that anyone feels excluded or marginalized, negativity creeps in and taints the experience of those affected. Whether in friendships, clubs or schools, there are many benefits of creating an inclusive environment. With this in mind, here come a few tips!
Help everyone to feel respected
In a fully inclusive environment, every individual is respected and feels that respect within the group. In a school group setting, for example, there will always be the children who are very confident, with lots to say. Then, there will be those who are more reserved and who feel much less comfortable to speak out. Of course, there will be instances whereby these are mere issues of personality, or engagement in a topic. However, it’s not uncommon for those who feel excluded to become timid within a group setting.
Individuals may come to feel marginalized for any number of reasons. It may be due to worrying about a perceived difference which they feel they have in this group. It may even be due to bullying. Whatever the reason, it’s essential to implement a strong anti-bullying policy and to find techniques that help all individuals to feel equal and respected within any group.
Create opportunities for all to be heard
The key is to ensure that everyone is heard and treated equally. Each individual should be given the same amount of time to contribute. During debate or discussion, this could be achieved by using a fun object (like a fake microphone)! Tell the group that the person who is holding the microphone will have their turn to speak, and everyone must listen without interruption. Set a few simple ground rules to help encourage mutual respect, for instance:
- In a debate, use kind words even when you don’t agree with someone’s opinion, ‘I respect your opinion; however, I think…’ Or, ‘It’s interesting you feel like that, but what about…’ etc.
- Always pass the microphone to someone who hasn’t spoken yet, or who has spoken the least so far.
- Instead of just choosing a friend, choose someone else. Choose someone different from you to learn something new.
Provide positive role models
Providing positive role models is an excellent way to foster an inclusive environment. Such role models can come in real life, for example, in teachers or special visitors to the school. Role models can also be found in the form of books. When children read books, they can improve their empathy by discovering individuals who are entirely different from them. The spaces where we learn from one another occurs through our differences in particular. Within books, children can find diverse characters who they may never have got the chance to meet in real life. With higher levels of empathy, a fully inclusive environment is far more likely. Book characters can teach children the values of kindness, compassion and even resilience.
Book Clubs In Schools
We believe that an inclusive environment is essential for positivity and learning. There is no room for discrimination of any kind; everyone has a chance to take part in our weekly book club. Students always take turns speaking and listening to one another, respectfully. Our clubs are based on a peer-to-peer mentoring programme led by older children. All the children involved get the chance to develop new perspectives and gain new skills.
There are no right or wrong answers; the debate is important and a welcomed part of the discussion. Our clubs teach children how to engage in debate while valuing each other’s opinions. Such skills allow children to build a solid understanding of inclusivity that they take with them into the different areas of their lives.
By Gemma Campbell