Focusing on diversity in the classroom builds better thinkers, improves academic outcomes, and involves more students. Regardless of the grade level you teach, there are numerous opportunities to promote diversity in careers in your instruction.
In spite of what our students might think, there is no such thing as a “man’s job” or a “women’s job.” Our students may also have views that certain jobs may not be available to them because of the color of their skin. As educators, we must work to dispel these culturally insensitive and incorrect stereotypes. Frequently look for ways to provide examples to your students of people working in what might be considered a “non-traditional career” for them. Exposure to real people in real jobs is the best way to illuminate the path for our students to careers they may not have considered possible. Opportunities for “Lunch & Learns” or “Career Chats” with professionals who break the mold of negative stereotypes are powerful tools we can use.
As a classroom teacher, be mindful of how you delegate class roles in your classroom. Are you demonstrating to your students, both verbally and nonverbally, that you believe all your students can be successful and all tasks and responsibilities.
- Resources: Student Activities for Exploring Diversity in Careers
- Lesson Plan: Nontraditional Job Opportunities
- Gender Positive Career Exploration Resources for Elementary School-aged Students
- National Center for Women & Information Technology (Resources)
- Fostering Inclusive Volunteering and Service Learning
Connect with Parents and the Community
Your school is a central part of your community and should reflect and celebrate its diversity. As it is important to get to know your students, you should get to know the parents and community members associated with your school, as well. There is simply no better source for business and career contacts than the parents of your school for when you are looking to develop a career readiness curriculum. On top of that, engaging your parents and community in the career development experience will encourage continued focus on it outside of the school walls.
We all recognize the value of our students growing in their skills that make them employable (i.e. - soft skills, 21st century skills, work skills, etc.). However, have you ever considered using employability skills as a method for teaching your students how to counteract negative stereotypes and misconceptions about people who are different than themselves? Have you ever thought about using the employability skills as a way to highlight diverse students in roles and skills they may not have believed they could do? These skills can be used to create a culture of belonging in your classroom and school in a way that extends beyond just preaching about them for the sake of being able to interview well for a job in the future.
A key strategy for promoting equity and diversity in your classroom is through setting norms that encourage openness and inclusion. Setting clear expectations about how students will respect each other and share their thoughts and opinions is crucial, as is teaching your students how to disagree with each other in a professional manner. Restorative Practices can be used to promote self-awareness, self-management, relationship skills, and responsible decision making -all abilities that are directly tied to employability skills.