By Teachers, For Teachers
We live in a world that is diverse, and our classrooms reflect just that. Whether you have a different heritage, are part of the LGBTQ community, or even have a learning disability, we are not all the same. When you get a variety of different individuals in the same classroom, students can struggle to fit in. As teachers, we have the ability to empower students to embrace their individuality and learn to love themselves for who they are. Here are a few teaching strategies to help students embrace their identity and inspire them to be themselves.
First and foremost, you must use teaching strategies that model individuality. As a teacher, you are already a role model to your students, and part of being a role model is to lead by example. Everything that you say and that you do, your students take in. It’s also important to note that everything that you don’t say and don’t do, your students will also take in. Therefore, you must embrace who you are as a teacher in order to get through to your students. For example, if you come from a certain heritage and part of your culture is to dress a certain way, then do it. If you struggle with a learning disability or have in the past, then talk about it with your students. The more that you are authentic yourself, the more comfortable your students will be embracing who they are as individuals.
One of many teaching strategies to help students recognize the value of different people is for them to their share story. This is a great way for students to learn about different cultures and diverse individuals instead of just reading about it. Invite students to share stories about their home lives and allow students to see the world through a different set of eyes. If you find students are reluctant to share out loud, then you can have them write it down, or better yet create a video blog (vlog). Today’s students are driven by technology, and if they feel most comfortable behind the lens of a video camera, then that’s OK, it will still get the point across.
What’s a better way to reach a student then inviting in a guest speaker? Guest speakers are the perfect choice if you want to drive home the point that you are who you are, and that you can use that individuality to your advantage. Invite in guest speakers that have used their individuality to help them succeed in life. If you want to drive home your cultural differences, then invite in someone who has a diverse background. If you want to show students how you can do anything as a woman in today’s world, then bring in a woman CEO or a woman who owns her own business. Whether it’s culture, gender, sexual orientation, or disability, inviting someone in to share their story is a great way for students to see how it can affect their lives.
Another way to help students embrace their individuality is to surround them with characters in books that they can relate to. Look at the demographics in your classroom to help you choose the appropriate book titles. This is a great way to comfort students, and help them feel like they are not alone. It’s also a wonderful way to showcase diversity. It can help students understand that we are all unique, and accepting yourself for who you are is OK.
Oftentimes minority students feel left out or feel pressured to fit in. They feel a need to dispose of who they truly are just so they can fit in with their peers. This can lead to dire emotional consequences like depression. By creating a classroom atmosphere that is responsive to everyone, you are promoting an environment where students can feel comfortable just being themselves. Display posters and quotes that depict the intention that you are trying to portray. By doing little things like this, your students will absorb the diversity that is around them.
The earlier your students realize the value of embracing their individuality, the easier it will be for them to succeed in not only school, but in life. Take the time to talk with your students, share personal stories and read books with characters that students can relate to. When you do all of these things, then your students will be able to flourish as individuals.
What teaching strategies do you use to get students to love themselves for who they are? Do you even embrace this topic in the classroom or think this should be left to the parents? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below, we’d to hear your opinion
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds Masters of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, TeachHUB Magazine, and Hey Teach. She was also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.