Recently, Bulldog Solution has focused on educating teachers, camp counselors, principals, and students about creating an inclusive community. As a whole, we need to start educating and helping people better understand how to create safe, inclusive environments for all students. We gathered a few tips that we found useful to create an inclusive environment.
Strategies to Create an Inclusive Environment:
- When talking with a group of kids, use another term rather than boys and girls. For example: students, campers, kids, little humans, or anything that will not target gender. When working with younger kids, I always use “Hello Friends!” or “Hello my favorite little humans!” Find a word that embraces all of the students, and does not exclude anyone.
- It is really important to ask the child how they want to be addressed and avoid saying: “What do you prefer to be called?” You want to stay away from the word “preference” as it undermines them. Remember it is not a preference, it is their identity!
- Run peace circles or create “talk time” to open up discussions and address stereotypes, myths, or stigmas. Let kids and teens talk about their cultural differences, home life, and sexual identity in a safe learning environment. We want to open up the discussions and learn about each other. It is great to talk about home life and find out about kids’ upbringings. One child may have two moms or dads, another child might be raised by a single parent or grandparents, and other children may be adopted. Asking open ended questions to learn more about each other, creates an inclusive and diverse environment. Be sure these conversations are facilitated by an adult, and it is a judgment free zone.
- Always ask, don’t assume a kids sexual identity. Please don’t dismiss a child by saying: “So what are you today…A boy or a girl?” Sounds crazy, but I have had teachers mock transgender students. So the appropriate way to ask would be: “Hey Jay, which pronoun do you want me to use when referring to you He, She, or They? I want to show you respect and address you properly. I go by Miss Kortney or she/her, so tell me how I can address you?” This is an actual conversation I had with a student. I pulled him aside and asked, so I didn’t embarrass or insult him. It is about showing respect and not alienating a child.
Learning how to have these conversations will help create a safe and inclusive environment. We often forget that identity is so important to kids and teens. We need to stop, listen, and address kids properly. So start bringing more awareness to the topic and don’t ignore it. We need to educate and open our hearts to people that are different from us. It is with learning and connecting that we build our students to be incredible adults!