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Does your classroom look like the students that enter it?

We live in a small slice of comfort here in Greenville. Obviously, the greater issues of our country as a whole effect us - economy (gas & groceries), politics & policies, & even distant countries at war. We live in an age where the world-wide media storm can be felt and seen and create an immediate impact on our lives. Emotions run high, stress increases, worry, fear, and vast innumerable creators of a double glance or a sharp intake of breath.

So, gentle educators, what does that look like to your students? What does this world look like through their eyes? What seems to be "adults" arguing at a proverbial worldwide kitchen table has now become like adults arguing at the literal kitchen table. How can we, as educators and creators of safe spaces actually create spaces of welcoming, affirming, inclusive safe classroom spaces that reflect the ideal world our students wish and crave to see?

First, be fun. Kids play. Their favorite subjects are lunch and recess. Create a space that reflects the environment your kids live or wish to live in. Yes, I realize that teacher salaries are low & if you have a budget at all, it's extremely limited. Get creative - Websites, free pdf printables, PTA funding, teacher marketplaces. Do a little research. What's hot and hip with kids in entertainment (keep it appropriate if it's going on your wall)? Cartoon art is colorful, fun, creative and tells a story. Manga & anime are perfect examples of fun, beautiful representations from another culture. Displayed art can also be used as creative inspirations for kids' own art creations or as conversation starters. Put your fun all over the room. Colorful floor dots, subject-related posters (if you're in a graded classroom, mis and match all of your subjects!). Side note: be aware of over stimulation. Take those few extra minutes to plan out your design and scheme/theme so it's not only reflective of a wide cultural student base, but also sensitive to those students who have stimulation sensitivities.

Second, the world is vast. Culture isn't isolated to regions, continents, villages, towns, or neighborhoods anymore. It crosses land and oceans - thanks to mass transit and flight (which, by the way, is a GREAT theme for a classroom and makes including cultures an easy jumping off point). While you may not know exactly the makeup of your roster, you still should strive to be culturally diverse in your representation. Kids want to be seen. They want to see themselves, and not just in their reflection. They also deserve to know what else is out there in this vast world beyond the walls of their homes or beyond the glare of their Chromebook screens. While the internet has given us all the gift of "travel" to worlds beyond our reach, it also creates a leash that keeps us tethered to our seats in our homes. Any and all manners of representation outside of house walls and computer screens should be achieved. We can't take those kids across the world, but we can take them there through our activities, our art projects, our in class library, and our music choices. Teachers, make conscious choices about your representation of the world. Puppets are great ways to interact (don't worry - I promise you don't have to be a skilled ventriloquist). As afore mentioned, art is an easy, affordable way to represent a vast cultural visual library. Talk to your related arts teachers! Their knowledge and out-of-the-box creativity is a vast resource.

Lastly, be compassionate. It's cliche, but we don't know the homes, the experiences our students are coming from and bringing to our classrooms. Cliche, but true. The presented facade at parent-teacher night, or presented at car line those first few days is expertly acted. We are all actors, aren't we? Be aware of that. Show compassion to that kid coming into your classroom for the first time who has red, puffy eyes. Be hyper aware of teasing and bullying. While we hope that situations don't escalate, we have to be practical. Unfortunately, the world of education sometimes becomes the catch-all for political, social, or economic unrest in the home. Those opinions held so strongly there translate into children at school. If a child learns a way of behavior at home, they're more likely to show it at school; and in most cases, it's against another student who presents as different to the "norm" of the other student. Our compassion extends to both students. Our classrooms still are those safe spaces, free from racism, bigotry, and hate. Establish that precedence of love and compassion and equality and equity.

Dear educators, we are in the trenches! No matter the age(s) we teach, we are at the front lines of the culture war. Politics, social changes, and many more skirmishes darken our classroom doors every day. We are the generals; fight back with compassion, equality, equity, justice, and most importantly, love.

Here are a couple links to some common educational resource sites:


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