I’m a Muslim, female and a person of colour so that definitely brings a lot of factors that could make me insecure in the way that I carry myself because of the ways my identity is misinterpreted or stereotyped or other forms of oppression that keep me from being me. So people definitely need to pay attention to different factors that can make someone more silenced than another.
At a minimum, all school communities in Ontario are comprised of students with diverse genders, each representing distinct viewpoints and lived experiences. Furthermore, even when such differences are hidden, unacknowledged or not visible, we can assume that our student population includes those who identify as LGBTQ, who have a wide range of learning styles and personality types, who have special needs related to differences around mental health, learning, or physical or intellectual abilities. We can also assume that they have siblings and caregivers with this range of diversity. We can make this assumption because these differences are part of our shared humanity; our human family includes all these manifestations and vastly more.
In all communities, we can be aware that some (or many) students are no doubt living in poverty or as society or crown wards, in groups homes or in foster care, and in diverse family forms and contexts, possibly with parents who are incarcerated or on parole. Throughout Ontario, it is likely that some or many or the majority of our students may be newcomers or members of racialized social groups, including marginalized ethnocultural or religious groups.
And of course, all over our province, in many schools in Ontario, we are quite likely to find among our students those who are members of First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities or whose family origins are within those communities.
When we consider this wide range of human diversity, it serves as a reminder that our quest to honour and embrace diversity within our schools need always be a primary focus, wherever we live and work. Honing our practice as educators seeking to nurture empowering conditions for our students begins with asking about, listening to and hearing students’ multiple and individual voices.
I make conscious decisions every day as an educator to disrupt the silence to interrupt the dominant narrative which silences many voices and many experiences. I work very hard to bring diversity into my classroom and embed it throughout the curriculum. So we talk about experiences of the students who are in the class and of the students who are outside of the classroom. My commitment to equity, social justice and creating an inclusive classroom is an effort to give voice to those students who have traditionally been silenced.
- Whatever activity we are engaged in or resource we are using, if some groups of people are missing, we can mitigate the effects of this type of exclusion by asking our students, "Who’s missing (in this picture, in this story, in this text, in this example, etc.)?"
- When studying a historical or contemporary political or social situation, if we are aware of possible biases or a limited perspective, we can ask, “What other way might this situation be understood?” or "Can you imagine other ways of seeing this situation?"