Equity & Access Newsletter

Secondary Edition

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Who will you include this Year?

Educators have so many things to do before the new school year begins; lesson plans, meetings, syllabi, professional development, preparing physical spaces in classrooms, etc. We want all of our students to feel welcome and valued throughout the school year.

Here are several strategies you can use to make that happen.

  • Continue to find ways to learn about your students. Take time to find out several things about your students outside of school. Remember you don't have to try to learn everything in the first two weeks; at least give yourself the first quarter.
  • Learn their name and/or the name they would like to go by. Be intentional about pronouncing names correctly. It may take some time but it's worth it when people hear their name the way they want to hear it. Also use the appropriate pronoun if requested.
  • Be firm with classroom agreements. As the school year continues, you may need to remind or re-emphasize what the class agreed upon at the beginning of the year. As the year continues, you may need to revise and review. We want to make sure that students feel safe physically and emotionally.
  • Go beyond saying "I treat all of my students the same." Students have different needs, personalities, and motivations. If you treat them all the same, students may not get what they need to be successful. By treating students fairly and equitably then you're able to work with students where they are.
  • Find out from parents or guardians what their expectations may be for their student. This may be an opportunity to have an honest and meaningful conversation about both of your expectations about their child's learning.
  • If a student self-identifies their race, gender expression, religion or disability; honor and respect their disclosure. If a student tells you something about their identity, they trust you to value and recognize that in the classroom/school. Let the student know you see them the way they would like to be seen.
  • Call-out inappropriate actions. It can be tough sometimes but to maintain a safe environment means letting students know that some actions or language is not appropriate in your classroom. The danger is if you choose not to do or say something, students may have the impression that those actions are tolerable and you agree.
  • Use People-First-Language. Put the priority on the person; not their limitation or disability. Instead of saying handicapped you could say "person with a disability."
  • Try to check-in with your students about what's going on. Finding ways to find out what's going on with your student's from time to time lets them know that you care about other issues that may be going on in their lives.

By using these strategies, you're letting students know that you see them and that you care. You may also allow the climate needed for student-voice to prevail.

Foundations for an Inclusive Classroom

A Classroom Where Everyone Feels Welcome

People First Language

What's In Your Toolbox?

Communicating with Parents

The first days of school are quickly approaching. When you are getting ready to greet your new students, here are some tips to become a welcoming face for parents too. Studies have shown that family involvement is a strong predictor of high student achievement. Part of helping students achieve is strengthening the partnership between schools and families. As teachers, we play a front-line role in building these relationships get the years started.

A) Smile and learn their names. Dale Carnegie said, “the expression one wears on relationships. Here are a few tips for getting those first days started on the right foot. One’s face is far more important than the clothes one wears on one’s back.” There may be only a few times in the year that parents will come to school. Remember to make your first impression positive and welcoming.

B) Conduct a Quick Survey at the beginning of the year or during your open house to assess the best way to communicate with students and families.

  • My child has regular access to a computer with internet access at home to support academics. (Yes/No)
  • My child has regular access to a mobile device (like a tablet or phone) at home with internet access to support academics. (Yes/No)
  • I have access to email. (Yes/No). If you answered no, please provide your name and your child’s name, and we will provide paper copies of communications.
  • I access the internet for school communications on my:
Home computer
Work computer
Mobile device
Other (please specify)

C) Make the early communications positive. It’s so much easier to make the first contacts to parents and guardians if you are calling with good news, rather than reporting negative behaviors. Take an hour and make quick calls home to every family on your roster. Start with a simple introduction. “Hi Mrs. Smith, this is Mrs. Williams. I’m so happy to have your Michael in my classroom this year.” Plan a second call to talk about the child’s positive behavior, improvements, or work quality.

D) Communicate frequently. Build a communication plan. Decide what fits for your classroom. Your communication could be a weekly newsletter, regular emails, occasional phone calls, or a note in the Friday folder.

Written by Teena Mahoney, English Teacher at Glendale High School

Why Pronouns Matter

Why Pronouns Matter

When working to build relationships with students, recognizing their identity is critical. We must also acknowledge that identity goes past our given/chosen names. Think about the way we dress, our mannerisms, and actions we show every day to let others know who we are. When someone shares their pronouns with you, they have the opportunity to create clarity in how they would like to be perceived. Assuming that someone's identity is only based upon their appearance, could be a misstep.

Most people mean no harm if we say, guess or assume the wrong pronoun. If you want to be respectful to the student, find an opportunity to ask (in a safe space) what pronouns would they like to go by. Remember we all make mistakes, but students will give us some grace if they know we're sincere in our efforts.

Here are several resources to expand your knowledge with pronouns and why they matter.

Why Pronouns Matter

GLSEN - Pronouns: A Resource

The Problem With Pronouns

For some, gender identity is more on a spectrum than an absolute. Below is a video giving you one student's perspective of genderfluid. Someone who is genderfluid has the opportunity not to conform to traditional gender roles.


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