Teachers always want the best for their children and always try to be fair and aim to create strong culturally competent classroom communities. We might all think that we acknowledge each and every individual and we might also think that we help all children to feel secure in their identities and to give them the freedom to be who they want to be.
Identity-safe classrooms foster belonging and value for students of all backgrounds. Because social identity affects students’ experiences, identity-safe teaching can help students become successful learners. Teaching kindness isn’t always enough.
So what really prevents us from meeting each student’s needs inside the classroom? One barrier is definitely teachers who often don’t recognise the link between students’ social and cognitive development and that without addressing each student’s needs for belonging and value, we as teachers can’t successfully educate them.
Research shows that unconscious bias is widespread in schools and that teachers show bias with children as young as preschool age. And we know this is true, teachers’ pets are a real obstacle in classrooms.
So how do we create an environment that is identity-safe and bury the biases?
Child-centred teaching, for example, promotes autonomy, cooperation and voice. Listening and allowing each student to contribute in class shapes your classroom culture and everyone feels that they belong. Teaching for understanding helps students to incorporate new knowledge into what they already know. Focusing on cooperation rather than competition encourages students to learn from their peers and also to help others. Classroom autonomy promotes responsibility and belonging in each unique student.
Using diversity as a resource for teaching in the classroom draws from every student’s life and personality and incorporates a difference into each day in the classroom. When a curriculum is challenging and each student can provide input from their point of view, it will give a purpose to learning and not just repetitive teaching and remediation.
Always be warm and positive. It has been proven, that children who felt safe in a classroom liked school more, were more interested in challenges and had a better sense of belonging. Be the change you want to see!