COVID-19 has prompted many conversations around topics such as school closures, social distancing, and mental health. However, one important topic that may be getting less attention is the subject of diversity and inclusion. Historically viruses have been named or associated with a specific country, for example the Spanish Flu and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which can lead to segregation and even xenophobia. As students and kids raise questions around what causes the coronavirus and where it originated from, it is an opportune time to talk about diversity and inclusion. Here are some tips on how to navigate this important discussion with students.
Find books that celebrate differences.
There are many resources from children’s books to novels that touch on the subject of diversity and inclusion. Depending on the age of your student or child, find a few books and set aside time for you to read them together. Be sure to leave some time afterwards to discuss the subject in more detail and to address any questions or feelings that may arise.
- Book recommendations for young children: All Are Welcome, The Skin You Live In, and Whoever You Are.
- Books recommendations for teens: Little Fires Everywhere, The Hate U Give, and Watch Us Rise.
Celebrate different cultures in everyday actions and conversations.
Children pick up on what you say and how you treat others. It is important to speak about other people and countries in a positive light, and introduce diversity into everyday life. One fun way to do this during shelter in place is to have meals that introduce foods from different countries. You may already be doing this without realizing it! While you are eating with your kids, ask them if they know where the food originated from and create a conversation around the differences and similarities of that culture. Another fun way to incorporate diversity is to challenge your kids or students to learn a new word or phrase in a different language every week. These small practices help students to understand that we’re actually part of a larger, global community.
Be aware and intervene if you notice intolerance.
During times of crisis, students may start acting out due to frustration and stress, so it is important to be conscious of any signs. Also, even during shelter in place, bullying can happen virtually. If your student or kid seems anxious because of something they heard from a friend or news from the media surrounding race, address the situation right away. Ask questions and provide answers that steer the conversation towards why it is important to include all people despite differences.
Lean on the experts.
Many education leaders are addressing the potential harm of bias during this pandemic. Here is a recent podcast with Tommy Chang, former Superintendent of Boston Public Schools and a member of the Swing Advisory Council, about what some educators are doing to try to shine a light on this problem.
Do you have any tips for talking to students and kids about diversity and inclusion? Share with us in the comments!
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