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SUPPORTING INCLUSIVE CLASSROOMS – A GUIDE FOR SCHOOL VOLUNTEERS 

 

Volunteers provide a variety of services in our local schools every day. Thank you for your service to our community and the next generations! The following document is meant to help you prepare to support ALL students in ways that create classroom environments that are supportive and inclusive. We hope this resource will support you as you contribute to this effort. 

 

Remember, creating an inclusive environment is an ongoing process that requires continuous effort and learning. Your dedication as a volunteer can make a significant positive impact on the school community and the lives of all students.

 

TIPS FOR SUPPORTING INCLUSIVE CLASSROOMS

  1. Avoid making assumptions about a student’s or staff person’s identity or background. 

  2. Use inclusive words like kids, students, people, person, parent, sibling, relative, caregiver, etc. 

  3. ​​Be mindful of privacy and confidentiality. 

  4. Embrace and respect the cultural differences present in the classroom.

  5. Honor all expressions of gender. Avoid making assumptions about the gender of any student. 

  6. Consider diverse student needs when planning classroom celebrations, including various allergies, religious practices, ability levels, and family background. Teachers will help guide classroom volunteers on best approaches. 

  7. Keep in mind that students may have a disability that is visible or invisible. If you have a question about how best to support a student while you are volunteering, coordinate with the teacher. 

  8. Keep in mind that an individual student should not be expected to be an expert or act as a representative of their racial or ethnic identity. 

  9. Reflect on your own biases and preconceptions. Everyone has biases. Acknowledging and addressing them is the first step towards becoming more inclusive. Recognize that biases can affect your interactions. 

  10. Avoid making assumptions about a student’s pronouns. If you don’t know, use a student’s name or the singular pronoun they when referring to them. If someone shares their pronouns with you, use their pronouns. Keep in mind that people may have more than one pronoun and pronouns can also change.

  11. Be conscious that students’ economic circumstances vary widely. Design classroom celebrations and activities that reduce the need for student families to purchase supplies. When discussing school breaks or after school time, be aware that some families cannot afford extracurricular activities or out-of-town vacations. Ask inclusive questions like, “What did you enjoy most during the break?”

  12. Be an ally. Stand up for individuals who are marginalized or facing bias. If you see a student being excluded or treated unfairly, support them and address the issue, in coordination with the teacher. When a statement is biased or offensive, address the situation calmly and sensitively. 

  13. No one is perfect, and you may inadvertently make mistakes. If you do, take responsibility, apologize, and learn from the experience. 

  14. Take the time to educate yourself. Understanding the issues will help you communicate effectively and sensitively with students, staff, and parents.

SELF-EVALUATION EXERCISE: CONSIDERING MY IDENTITY & OTHERS 

As you prepare to volunteer with students with varying identities and backgrounds, take a moment to reflect on your own identities. How might your background impact your expectations for students and how you interact with them and staff? How might your background impact how students see you? Take a moment to consider your identity, then think how you can communicate belonging and safety for all students through acceptance of their multiple identities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GLOSSARY

  1. Ally: Someone who is not a member of a marginalized group, but provides support and takes action to help people in that group. 

  2. Bias: the inclination or preference either for or against an individual or group that interferes with impartial judgment. Bias may be explicit (conscious, self-aware, voluntary, and intentional) or implicit (unconscious, unaware, involuntary, and unintentional).

  3. Gender Identity: the internal sense of one’s own gender. This can correlate with someone’s sex assigned at birth or it can differ.  

  4. Gender Expression: the way a person expresses their gender, through appearance, dress, or behavior. 

  5. Microaggressions: subtle, often unconscious everyday behaviors that often unintentionally denigrate someone from a historically marginalized or non-dominant group. Often described as, “death by a thousand tiny cuts.”

  6. Neurodivergence: a term that describes people whose brains develop or work differently than the majority of others. 

  7. Prejudice: judging or having an idea about someone or a group of people before you actually know them.

  8. Stereotype: a false idea that all members of a group are the same.

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LINKS TO LEARN MORE

Coming soon. 

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