In recent months, the social justice movements that have erupted across the country have permeated every aspect of not only our lives, but the lives of children. As educators, we’re tasked daily with addressing important societal issues and conversations (whether directly or indirectly). And recent events are no exception.
I’m Leslie Coleman, the education director of ChildCare Education Institute (CCEI), the nation’s leading online professional development provider for early childhood education (ECE) professionals. Throughout my 25+ year career, I’ve developed professional development on a wide variety of topics, including creating more inclusive learning spaces that foster open mindedness among students and teachers.
Studies show there are numerous benefits for children when you promote inclusion and diversity in classrooms, including critical thinking, creativity, positive self-identity, and confidence, all of which form a strong foundation for adulthood.
Below are four areas (along with corresponding courses from CCEI) that can help ECE professionals create more affirming spaces for young children.
1. Create a multicultural classroom.
In the feel-good pop song “Everyday People,” Sly and the Family Stone taught us, “I am no better and neither are you, We are the same whatever we do.”
It’s a wonderful sentiment, and certainly one that can and should be integrated into your classroom.
A multicultural environment is one that supports and incorporates different cultural perspectives and backgrounds. Creating a learning environment like this is the first step to developing an inclusive and diversity-rich community with your students and their families. By fostering multiculturalism, you can sow seeds of acceptance and begin to teach students how to respect and embrace differences, which will serve them throughout their lives.
We developed CCEI640 to help explain multiculturalism and anti-bias education to teachers. This course helps educators define the goals of multiculturalism, develop an anti-bias classroom and activities that can be immediately incorporated into your lesson plans.
2. Promote diversity.
Repeat after me: “It’s a small world after all.”
More than ever, our classrooms are microcosms that reflect America’s growing diversity. And it’s not enough to create a multicultural classroom — teachers should actively promote and highlight diversity.
When teachers develop a climate focused on diversity and acceptance, children begin to understand cultural differences are positive strengths that allow all individuals to make unique contributions.
CCEI’s CUR111 focuses on ways to incorporate diversity into your curriculum and daily activities, as well as the way cultural diversity permeates almost every aspect of teaching.
3. Understand and erase gender stereotypes.
Studies show gender stereotypes and bias begin as early as preschool. While most children recognize themselves as either girls or boys by age three, they are still figuring out their gender identities.
That’s why it’s imperative teachers are aware of the impact of gender norms, as well as negative stereotypes — especially, any unconscious attitudes they might hold.
One way to prevent negative practices is by examining our own biases, and understanding how and why gender stereotypes are formed and the ways in which they can impact children’s psychological and social development.
We developed SOC103 to help teachers understand the harm of gender stereotypes and learn strategies for promoting gender equity and equal opportunity in the classroom.
4. Create an LQBTQ+-friendly classroom.
Data released a few years ago showed there were almost a quarter of a million children under the age of 18 being raised by same-sex parents in the United States. And that number has likely grown since the study was conducted.
As the number of same-sex parents increases, it’s imperative for ECE professionals to understand how to create welcoming and affirming spaces for all children and families, including families from the LGBTQ+ community.
CCEI’s PROF106 was developed to introduce common terminology and research data related to LGBTQ+ parents, their experiences in schools and help teachers identify ways to adapt their classrooms to be more welcoming for LGBTQ+ families.
Creating a sense of safety and inclusion in the classroom is vital for educators. And in light of recent events across the country, it’s more important than ever for teachers to understand how to accomplish this. For more information and additional courses on this topic, please visit: https://www.cceionline.com.