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Friday, August 04, 2017

Inclusive Behavior Matters

At the MTA Summer Conference, I had the opportunity to learn more about inclusion and diversity via consultants from Great Island Consulting. They had a unique approach to the topic, one I had not experienced before. Their approach helped all the educators in the room look deeply at their own practice and experience with regard to inclusion and diversity, and by doing that they elevated individual empathy and understanding of the topic as well as a will to move forward with greater respect for diversity and ability to act in inclusive ways.

As I consider the notes from the presentation, I am prompted to think deeply about the inclusive behavior assessment we took and how I might make those inclusive behaviors visible in the school environment. With this goal in mind, I've identified the following actions.

See and acknowledge all people
I want to work with students to develop this practice more. Ways that we might do this include the following:

  • A Hello Campaign that includes posters around the school and efforts to say hello to all people in the school with friendly gestures, smiles, use of people's names and more. 
  • Hello Days where students keep track of how many people say "hello" back, and then using that data to think about how we can build an even friendlier environment.
Body language that demonstrate openness and receptivity
In the busy school climate, this can be difficult so one of the first ways to make this visible is to slow down the day and make every transition more deliberate. For example, stay clear of public places when what you need is quiet concentration, and when you venture out in public, be ready to be positive, open and receptive. 

For the students, I want to focus our open circle time on body language. Our school counselor has some great workshops on this so I'll look to her help in this regard. Also I'll be explicit with students about this topic with statements such as "If I'm reading your body language correctly, it seems that you. . . ." or "Your body language is saying ___, but your words are saying ____, what's true?"

Using people's names
I'll try to elevate this by asking students to write letters more often to express their responses, learning, and needs. We'll include this as part of the hello campaign, and we'll foster this with our start of the year selfie project that emphasizes the importance of names

Paraphrase and test your understanding before you respond
I want to explicitly model this in the classroom as I work with students on conflict resolution, and I would also like to make this a subject and activity during our open circle time.

Speak for yourself using "I" statements
Again I'll model, and we'll practice during open circle and class presentations/share.

Be willing to influence and be influenced
This will be a good point to practice during math talk and debate as well as during conflict resolution.

Seek multiple view points and encourage the expression of differences
Starting with the "hello campaign" students and I can discuss this topic and practice it. First questions might be, "How do you say hello to people you know well? How do you say hello to people you don't know as well? Be as specific as possible. We often solve classroom issues as a group so that's another way that we can make this inclusive behavior explicit.

Treat conflict as a resource, find the promise in the problem
Early in the year I'll present the model of learning paths and the "roads of life" to students. We'll talk about high points, low points and steady times. As part of this discussion, we'll talk about conflict and what to do when it occurs. I'll introduce them to the idea that you can find "the promise in the problem." I'm excited about working with students to see conflict as opportunity rather than a problem. 

Assume positive intent, hear individual's truth
Too often as educators we may jump to conclusions rather than making the time to hear a student's or colleague's truth. We have to slow down classroom life so there is time to listen and hear what students have to say. So often what we think is not the truth of the matter, and when children explain "their truth" to us we learn information we didn't even consider or imagine.

This is an area I want to think a bit more about and how I might model this with students and build their ability to use these comments too.

Work to build trust, honor confidentiality and do what you said you would do
As one who's a big dreamer, sometimes my dreams outpace my action. I have to be careful about this and promise what I can do, not what I dreaming about. Also early year small group or individual lunches and meetings can work to build this kind of trust with students and colleagues. In the school house, it's helpful to say to colleagues, please let me know if this is something you don't want shared with others. It's good to know what needs to be confidential and what can be public. In general, I'm a fan of transparency and not a lot of secrets so it's important to think about the difference between confidentiality and harmful secrets. Treating students with utmost respect and care is the best way to build communities of trust. Also when speaking about students and families, it's essential to use high levels of respect and confidentiality too.