Consistently interrupt incidents involving racist, sexist or homophobic language or behaviour
By taking action every time we encounter discriminatory interactions or comments, teachers can make a significant contribution to increasing equity and promoting inclusive education in our classrooms, hallways, playgrounds and school environments. This consistency is a key component of real and positive change at many levels.
Regular, predictable and constructive intervention ensures that students receive the same message – and over time. Making the connections between all equity issues and intervening whenever someone abuses power is another way of communicating a consistent message.
Consistency can be a challenging goal since teachers are so often pressed for time. And of course, teachers (like everyone else!) might freeze when confronted with offensive and harmful comments.
An important principle to keep in mind is that it is always better to say something than to say nothing. When we are pressed for time or unsure of exactly what to say, we can say publicly:
- “I want to talk to you about that later.”
At the very least and very importantly, we are communicating our commitment to students, by addressing and interrupting verbal assaults, whether or not we feel sure of what to say at that moment.
And, as we often may feel at a loss for what to say in a way that is positive and useful, we can use an “I” message to describe our reaction, for example:
- “I’m not comfortable with what I just heard."
Inviting students to consider this and then returning to it later means that we provide important learning opportunities, while nurturing a safe, strong and free environment at school for all students and members of the community.