3 Amazing Tips to Make your Classroom More Inclusive

posted on Sep 30 2021

by Jo'Lisa Jones, Artistic Director

Hi All! My name is Jo’Lisa Jones (she/her/hers) and I am the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator here at mainstages. I’d like to share 3 helpful tips to make your classroom a more inclusive environment!

Before I do, I want to take a moment to share a little about my journey. I started my theatrical career as an educational performer. I’ve co-founded and am President of the board for EMIT Theatre, an immersive educational theatre company.

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Over the last few years, I've shifted my focus to facilitating and acting in devised processes focusing on uplifting marginalized races, genders, and neurodiverse communities. I have also created workshops and programming specifically designed to bring cultural awareness, activism, and advocacy into schools and empower students.

As our schools' populations increasingly diversify, it is important to make sure all students feel welcomed and included in the classroom. The following are a few easy tips to make your classroom a more inclusive environment:

3 Tips for a More Inclusive Classroom

Address and Celebrate our Differences!

Mirrors and Windows is a handy tool that can be used either as a designated activity in a sharing circle or a quick check-in when students share an experience!

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When a student shares a personal story, the rest of the class is invited to offer their Mirror or Window. The mirror is a way in which the person's story reflects your own life and the window is a way their story opens a new perspective. This activity encourages self-reflection, connection, and empathy, therefore creating a stronger sense of community!

Pronoun Practice!

An easy way to make all genders feel included in your classroom is to share names and pronouns. Best suited for the first day of class, have students all introduce themselves in a fun way (they can share what they did this summer or create a fun gesture!) but make sure they include their name and pronouns!

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This assures none of your students will be misgendered and no one accidentally uses their deadname (their birth name that is no longer used as part of their gender transition or identity). Remember gender expression (ie, how people dress) is NOT the same as gender identity (personal sense of gender). Refraining from making assumptions about a person’s identity is the first step to making a more inclusive classroom!

Layers of Learning!

Tier learning activities are a great way to adapt to neurodivergent learners! Your classroom is full of students who all learn and process information differently. Some may be auditory, visual, kinesthetic, etc. learners. Try providing activities and share instructions on multiple tiers. For example, verbally explaining an activity while a visual representation is on a screen and encouraging students to get up and move around during the activity ticks multiple tiers (auditory, visual and kinesthetic).

Diversifying your instruction style allows students to process your lessons more accessibly which can lessen any classroom meltdowns and frustrations. We are all working towards a common goal and objective, but let’s normalize a range of processes on how to get there!

I have also been examining mainstages’ programming, performances, structures, and habits to consider how best to address and restructure any systematic harm caused and move forward as a community. We are committed to accountability and transparency which is why I want to share a few of our goals and action items with you!

Mainstages commits to the following:

  1. Employ staff, create programming and performances, and cultivate communities that reflect the demographics of NYC, fostering an environment that welcomes all individuals.
  2. Share our Inclusive Language Guide; which includes tips, definitions, and explanations regarding race, gender, disability, family and socio-economic status to be used by the mainstages community.
  3. Institute mandatory anti-racism, conflict resolution, and accountability training for staff, teaching artists, and performers. We are both developing our own customized training and participating in external training programs that take into account our need to assume responsibility for any caused harm and give us the skills we need to become anti-biased practitioners.
  4. Create a Solidarity agreement that is signed by our partners and organizations which uphold mainstages’ standards of diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  5. Expand our outreach and build relationships with new community-partner organizations to share a diverse community of teaching artists and performers.

I hope you found these three activities will be a helpful tool on the journey to make classrooms more inclusive! If you want to get in touch with me regarding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at mainstages, you can send me a message at jo’

Jo'Lisa Jones

posted on Sep 30 2021

by Jo'Lisa Jones

Jo'Lisa brings her experience as an NYC actor and theatre activist to her work as Artistic Director. She is recognized for her creativty, dedication to diversity, equity and inclusivity, and fostering relationships with innovative artists. Jo'Lisa has performed with many NYC theaters and partnered with organizations that specialize in elevating the voices of marginalized communities. She has used applied theatre to work closely with people of all races, genders, and neuro-diversities. Jo'Lisa co-founded and now is President of the Board of EMIT Theatre Company. She is passionate about continuing to build a safe, inclusive, innovative and educational mainstages community.